My first meal in Los Angeles were these shrimp tacos last Monday. They were amazing! I got them from the neighborhood’s pride and joy taco shop, Cactus Taquería, pictured below. As former and current dweller Sara told me, everyone loves this Taquería and always comes here to eat and hang out. I can definitely see why Cactus Taquería is always full. It was so great to eat authentic Mexican food and to use the resources I have to support local food shops, neighbors, and families. Not only that, but in sharing a meal with Sara among our neighbors (vecinos) and blessings our vecinos (Cactus taquería owners), I felt like it was my initiation into this community. Meals are usually part of the hospitality a community gives to new visitors and these shrimp tacos were figuratively my welcoming into this latino community. This is only the beginning of me feeling at home here. If you’re ever in Hollywood, come and eat here! You won’t regret it!
“La casa de la comunidad” is the community house that we share with our neighbors. Twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays evenings, we have children from the neighborhood come play, hang out and receive homework help from the YAV / Dwellers. In front of the house is also a community garden where both we and our neighbors plant fruits and vegetables. It is a tradition of our Hollywood site to have the Community Open House Days and to share the garden. This house truly is the community’s house. A good portion of our neighbors are latinos, so as we latinos say, “mi casa es su casa”. In this case it’d be, “esta casa es nuestra casa”, meaning this house is our house.
Last week, I participated in an “orientation” with all of my other fellow YAV volunteers who are now currently all over the world and nation communing with some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. I write “orientation” in quotation marks because as our Coordinator of the YAV Program, Rev. Richard Williams, stated “this whole year will be a year of orientation.” Now, the following are a few reflections from my time at Stony Point.
Day of Arrival – Monday August 24th
As I sit here in the midst of an open field beautifully kept with a precious garden beside it and beautiful homes behind this enchanting scenery, I sit here with a deep sense of gratitude. I am grateful that God has given me the gift to appreciate the beauty of creation and of even human beings’ creation, which God gave us the ability to create such marvelous spaces and things. I am more aware of this gift after the confirmation in the StrengthFinder test, which stated that I perceive beauty more so than the norm. I now realize that God has been subtly telling me that this the past year.
Wow, look at the moon perfectly fitting in with the clean, healthy, soft and clear baby blue sky. Barely able to see it unless you stop…and really pay attention. So Lord God as I initially sat down I said, “Lord, I don’t fully know what you have for me this year or why I am here.” But, I do know that the work that you started in me, you will bring to to fruition and completion.
It’s so great to be here and be among so many different people from diverse backgrounds and still be able to get along with them right off the bat. Even though we are all unique in our own ways, what unites us is our mission. Our mission to proclaim the gospel to the whole world and not just through words, but through actions, through serving and more so being with those most in need.
We are all here gathered as volunteers and will literally go to various parts of the world and our nation: Colombia, Peru, Ireland, Hollywood CA, Montana, Atlanta GA, Chicago IL, and Boston MA among many others. We show up to take a stand on poverty and to demonstrate to our world and communities that we love and care for them. We can only do this because God loved us first and is our perfect example of how to love. Through God’s love, we can provide hope for all our lives and our world. The work won’t be easy, but possible if we stop focusing on hate, jealousy, and greed and instead center all our energy on love, hope, restoration, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Thank you for your time and blessings to you!
4th Day of Orientation – Thursday August 27th
As I sat in the service, the following thoughts came to my head during prayer time after hearing and being so moved by Blair and Patrick’s, two YAVA’s (YAV Alumni), experiences. The prayer time was my chance to really be quiet and meditate as I had not had the opportunity earlier today. Reflecting on Blair and Patrick’s stories, I noticed how I am profoundly moved by people in difficult or tragic situations and always want to fix it and make it all better for them. This is especially true for those who I deeply care for and love. I usually feel hopeless in these moments and get upset because I can’t do more.
Today I realized, thanks to the two YAVAs, that my job is not to fix people’s situations and make it all better when I don’t have the ability or the means to do so. Instead, my purpose it to make sure they feel loved and supported and to help them perceive how important, worthy and valuable they are to me and to our society. God is already a given here.
I remember how friends I deeply care for and cherish would tell me about their upbringing and all the hurt and chaos they experienced in their lifetime. I would get so devastated and troubled in hearing these life stories. All I wanted to do was make it all better. I didn’t want them to be hurting, in pain or holding on to past hurts. I desired for them to be free from all their sorrows. Now I understand that I don’t possess the power to change their life situations, but that I can provide love, support, and encouragement. I can listen for those who want to vent or just want someone to talk to. In these situations, I can also love them as they are and bring joyous moments to their lives. I am so grateful and praise God for this lesson because it is going to be so important to keep in mind for when I work with the homeless. I may feel like I can’t do much to get them housed and stable, but I just have to keep reminding myself of this lesson.
Now, I thank you for listening. Blessings.