Unpacking

Sarah (2nd from l) and some of her fellow AWB staffers

Sarah (2nd from l) and some of her fellow AWB staffers

At the end of the day, we take a moment to reflect and share during the daily wrap up, or sikkum yom. No matter how exhausted we are, this is a must-do. As we sat down to unpack our first day, one of our bright peer leaders suggested the format for tonight’s sikkum yom. He explained to us a way for discussing the high’s and low’s of our days in the terms of our rose, our thorn, and a third, further step, our bud to express what we are excited for in the following day. Today I was particularly struck by some of the thoughts expressed, and I’m going to take this moment to share them with you.

Each student begins their turn by telling the group about their thorn, often the part of their day that they found most challenging emotionally. After a trying day visiting Skid Row and bearing witness to what is often dubbed a great “social disaster” of this country, many participants had a lot to share. What struck many of them was the hardship that homeless individuals in that area face from the lack of access to clean showers to the food insecurity that plagues the chronically homeless. Many students also shared the discomfort that this eye-opening experience caused them as they found themselves unable to turn a blind eye and ignore the vast suffering of this population. While the guide answered the students’ insightful and thorough questions, many participants expressed frustration as they grappled with understanding the obstacles homeless individuals encounter on their paths to security.

After sharing the weight of these feelings, the students unpacked their days further to discuss their roses and buds, or their joys and their hopes. Many of the participants took particular interest and joy in observing the genuine sense of community that much of Los Angeles’ homeless shares. They also expressed how much happiness it brought them to prepare dinner for homeless individuals at PATH. Not only did they enjoying cooking dinner, they also sought out connections with homeless individuals at PATH as they sat together for the meal and asked meaningful questions. As a madricha, what most powerfully impacted me today was seeing the presence, the initiative, and the sincere investment in the mission that all of the participants share. I can only imagine what they will accomplish in the coming days.

~ Sarah Fine is from Miami, Florida and is a senior at Vanderbilt University.  She is a staff member at Camp Judaea and was on Year Course in 11-12