This is a unique blog post-- more of a letter to you all really. I know it's lengthy, but please bear with me. I need something from you— not money or support— just your ears. I have a story that I need to share.
A couple months before graduation I was incredibly shocked and thankful to find a job after a text from a friend. I filled out an application between cups of coffee at 1 am, and before my 8 o’clock class the next morning.
I doubted I would get this job. The timing seemed off because I was still a few months away from graduating and it required translating which is a constant insecurity for me no matter how much I know or learn.
The next day, I threw on my favorite pair of ripped jeans and rushed off to classes completely forgetting about the job until my phone rang during class.
They wanted me to come in for an interview… in an HOUR.
I skipped lunch, rushed to TJ Maxx to find something professional, changed in the car and made it to the interview, anxious, unprepared and clammy. At the conference room table, they told me I was hired. I wasn’t sure I had heard them right. Nonetheless, December 1st, a week before finals were over, I began working full time.
I started hearing about things like 401K’s, benefits, and retirement more than I ever had in my life.
I began a job that encompassed so many of my passions. I became better at translating and learned a lot about teaching English and the school system. My heart started breaking when the kids began to tell me their stories.
Irene was first. We were sitting at the computers in the classroom defining words from her classes that she didn't understand.
"It means hurting in your heart about something," I told her, “sufrimiento”
Her big brown eyes got a little bigger, but I couldn't have known what was coming.
“I have a suffering,” she said in her cute little English.
I dared to let her continue and she told me of the trips back and forth from Mexico to Chicago. She told me of her father who abused her older sister, and then left.
“But I know it is my fault,” she said in Spanish as the big tears leaked from her eyes, because that is what he told her and what 11-year-old doesn't believe her father?
Her fault?!? What adult tells an innocent child this about his own selfish abuse? There was so much injustice in it all, I wasn’t even sure what to think.
I can’t really remember what I said to her— I probably choked out something about that not being true, but in that moment everything just got blurry.
I forgot all the other kids laughing and talking in the classroom.
And as I cried for Irene driving home from work that day, I wasn’t quite sure I was ready for this life, but my heart wasn’t giving me an option.
That continued and multiplied for months. Stories like Irene's became more common. Eventually, I was hearing these stories back to back all day. Before I knew it, I had so many that I didn’t know where to file them in my heart. I would leave work with a mother crying to me about her family being deported, a girl who couldn’t get over flashbacks of her uncle being shot, kids failing because they don't speak the language, and a boy asking me why the other kids keep calling him [ insert a plethora of profanity ] that he doesn't understand.
Then I would get in my car with my head spinning and leave that world for my midtown home with roommates and groceries from Kroger. I would sit there frozen wondering how it is possible to drive between such different worlds in just 15 minutes.
Eventually these things build up in you, and you drive home with glazed eyes because your bursting with stories. And of course it would be healthy for you to write them down, but they just start coming out it bursts to unsuspecting friends and family usually accompanied by tears or intense frustration. Evenings are exhausting so you just binge in front of mindless TV or crawl in bed with pizza and don't get out until its time to start again at 6 am tomorrow.
Although I knew this was becoming unhealthy, and I was ceasing to help in my own overloaded empathetic emotional exhaustion, I wanted to continue because of passion or drive or something else, I’m not really sure.
But the last day of school, I found out that I wasn't going to have to make a decision, it was being made for me. In that moment I could be angry at the people who didn’t do their job to make sure my papers were in order.
Deep inside, I was, but I knew that I also had to be thankful because I was literally in over my head. I had to stop and something higher than someones mistake had stopped me.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9
I know this is true to the depth of my being and even when it's hard, I have seen it to be true too many times to doubt.
I don’t know where I am headed right now. I don't know if I am going back to the place of all these stories. I don’t know what ministry looks like for me.
I do know that I am bursting with stories. Not stories from some faraway tribe in Africa or Central America where I usually find them, but from right here in my country, in my city— in OUR city. They are changing me, these stories. They are also eating me up inside and I have to get them out.
Loving the poor, the needy and forgotten looks so different for each of us, but we can't help anyone if we don't know. I am still reeling in from the shock of how much need actually exists so close to my house,
I’m not asking you for anything except to read these stories; to just let your eyes be opened to the realities-- both heartbreaking and beautiful-- right here in the US. I need a space to share these stories, and I hope you will take a few moments for the next few weeks and hear them.