Harford House Service #1
Every Tuesday of my first semester at Loyola, I stepped off the campus from 630-9pm. I have always been interested in service and helping others. And not only is Loyola University perfect when it comes to helping others, but also developing relationships that could have a lasting impression.
I was a little uneasy entering the Harford House for the first time. All I knew was that it was for a group of men who have been either homeless or drug addicted in the past. This was a place for them to stay until they can get back on their feet. About thirteen Loyola students drive to the house and have dinner, converse, play games, in other words, just hang out with the guys. We were told not to act as though they were different from our friends back home, rather just new friends. Before I knew it, I was making connections with these men that I would never forget.
There is a obvious correlation between the Harford House the poem, ”Mending Wall”, written by Robert Frost. The “Mending Wall” talks about how there should not be a wall between the neighbors. There is an unnecessary wall keeping the neighbors from interacting with each other. The neighbor claims that “good fences make good neighbors”. How would he know though? It is possible that a friendship could easily flourish between the narrator and neighbor if given the chance. Loyola’s service opportunities act as a crane to knock down the wall between students and those who may be less fortunate.
If I hadn’t gone to the Harford House, my perception of the men would have never changed. Even walking through the door, I was guarded…I wasn’t sure what to expect. Barely ten minutes later, my wall nearly disappeared. The men of the house were so respectful, interactive and last, but certainly not least, grateful. They acted as though we were doing the greatest thing in the world by sitting and having a meal with them. I now know I never have to worry about setting “the wall between us once again”.
“Accident, Mass. Ave”, a poem by Jill McDonough, seems to deal with the assumptions made by people who look at the Harford House from the outside. After the “car accident” in the poem both women assume they have to freak out on one another. This is before they even look for the problem, it is just the known thing to do, “It being Boston, I got out of the car yelling, swearing at this women”. The women assumed there was an issue between them and their natural instincts were to act with haste and anger. I feel as though this is common between students and people we don’t normally accommodate with. It is only after the person takes a step back and looks at the situation at hand does she realize nothing has happened, there is no mark, no damage done. The men in the Harford House have not caused any personal damage to any of us, so why should we treat them any differently? There is no reason not to go in with an open mind and give these people a chance, even if they are just strangers at first.
Poet Frances E. W. Harper writes about an elder lady learning how to read for the first time in the 1872 poem, “Learning to Read”. At first I found it difficult to connect this poem to my experience at the Harford House. It wasn’t until I reached the 33rd line that I realized the tie between the two. The poem reads, “there is no use trying, Oh! Chloe, you’re too late…so I got a pair of glasses and got straight to work I went, and never stopped till I could read the hymns and Testament.” One thing I will never forget from talking to the man at the house is that no matter how many hardships they have experienced, they never gave up. They still believe in good and have faith in the world. It is amazing to know that it is possible to push through regardless of the circumstances. Chloe, even at 60 years old, managed to learn how to read, proving that nothing is impossible as long as your set your mind to it.
“The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education” is an article that describes exactly what the title is. It discusses the Jesuit commitment to faith and justice and how “the Lord has patiently been teaching us to serve the faith that does justice in a more integral way”. The Jesuit education thrives to educate the whole person in more than just one way. Doing service is the most efficient way to succeed in our Jesuit values. One passage in the article hit home to almost every service I’ve participated in, especially Harford House, it talks about how everyone is a “unique individual, they all aspire to live life, to use their talents, to support their families and care for their children and elders, to enjoy peace and security, and to make tomorrow better.” There is no better way to describe service and the people involved. We are all there for the same purpose, whether we are the ones doing the service or receiving the service…everyone benefits in their own way.