Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Who Knew Free Help Was So Hard to Give Away?

(After the last entry, I thought a balance of finding meaning here might be good. Below is a journal entry from April 22nd, as I rolled into my 4th month of nothing to do for work. I had a job title- volunteer, but no job to do with the title.)

April 22nd, 2007

I am unemployed. And really, if I want to be honest, I have been in this state of unemployment since December. I mean, technically I have a job, in so far that I am a volunteer in a program called the Holy Cross Associates. Today celebrates 9 months of life as an Associate, and I am in no mood for celebration. Perhaps tomorrow will signify my first day of work, and that my friends, would be a reason to celebrate.

I never imagined free help in a supposedly poor country would be so hard to give away. I have tried, at times I really have. Imagine if you will, the humiliation that comes with the worthlessness that defines you when you must answer the most basic of questions, “what is it you do in Chile?” with an even more basic but all the real and honest answer: nothing.

I hope as you read this, the immediate instinct to offer reassuring words trying to speak volumes of the opposite can be quelled. Hear me, really hear me when I tell you of the worthlessness one feels when his days pass again and again without goals or hopes, and end void of successes or even failed attempts.

The program always advertised this experience as a presence with the people, a being rather than doing mentality that emphasized again and again I would not be down here to do a job a Chilean could not do. I wonder if a Chilean could get away without working the way I have the last few months. And so perhaps in the end it is my fault that I find myself in a program in which I often feel I do not fit. Anyone who reads this thinking about volunteering after college, I highly suggest figuring out if it is spiritual formation or service you want the emphasis on. It is something I would have been wise on discerning more carefully myself.

I came to Chile wanting nothing more than to work with the poor, to live amongst them and know them in such a way that this would create the cornerstone of a life of service, not just a two year formation. I came armed with nothing more than an open heart and hands inspired by nothing more than idealistic notions of what I could do, what I mistakenly assumed I would easily do.

And so, I am unemployed. It is humiliating, it is humbling, it is perhaps true solidarity in ways I never imagined and honestly never wanted.

Note: One week after this journal entry I walked into a local school and explained my situation. I am now working, co-teaching English classes to juniors and seniors, as well as working in campus ministry assisting in various aspects. It is still somewhat unfulfilling and I struggle with it, but now, at least, it is something. I might still be going under used, but at least I am no longer being unused. Other than that, I am still visiting the orphanage, and all I can say, is those kids will never know what they have meant to me in this time of difficulty.

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