Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christopher Place

Recently, I started volunteering at Christopher Place, a transitional home for recently homeless men. Christopher place is an organization run by Catholic Charities whose mission is to provide the men there support to overcome their homelessness and help them to find stable employment, housing, and to put them back on their feet. At Christopher Place, I worked in the Employment Center. There, I helped the men to set up e-mail accounts, browse job ads in newspapers and online, work on resumes, and send faxes to potential employers. In working with these men, I really learned something about myself. They helped me to see how lucky and fortunate I was to have so many opportunities that I sometimes take for granted. Also, they showed me that even someone who is homeless and jobless can have a great deal of self worth and a great attitude. These men were energetic; they really wanted to work hard to turn their life around. I saw this particularly in one man, Anthony. Together, we completed and faxed (to his new employer) a direct deposit form that we needed to complete his application. Once that fax was sent, it was like a weight was lifted off his shoulders. He was able to step back and see all that he had accomplished--he went from living in a transitional home to obtaining a job. He will now have stability in his life. As Anthony put it, "That was the final nail in the coffin. Things are starting to look up again." It was incredible to be part of something that moving for Anthony. It really motivated me to keep working and to keep pushing these men to do their best, because success does happen. We all saw, myself included, that this is not just a dream but a reality; they only need to push themselves to make it happen.

All three of the works for Wednesday’s class tied into my experience at Christopher Place. In B. Traven, the character Justino really reminded me a lot of the men that I had worked with. Anya describes him as someone who “would rather be a movie actor or an adventurer, a real free spirit…but things didn’t work out for him.” (p. 59). This was the feeling that I had gotten from a lot of men at the employment center. These men were really free spirited, loving to tell stories about childhood and joke with one another. I felt almost like while they were happy to be there, they would rather have been somewhere else. They, like Justino, have had things go wrong in their life and probably have gotten a few bad breaks. The great thing about these men is that they are working to better themselves and their situations by utilizing resources like the employment center. In End of April, I found another line that really made me think of the men at Christopher place. That line was “Broken, but not shattered” (line 3). This line really struck me, and tied into the point about Justino. These men really have fallen on hard times. They are a broken egg, but they simply refuse to stand by and let themselves become a shattered one. They will work to better themselves, hoping that one say they can become whole again. Lastly, the Baltimore Sun article probably tied in the best with Christopher place. “Serving Up Hope” is an article Galen Sampson, a chef who uses his deli to teach culinary skills to former convicts and drug addicts. The skills learned in the deli help them to secure jobs once they leave the program, and eventually help them to get back on their feet. I feel that Galen’s deli and Christopher Place are very similar organizations—they provide a positive atmosphere to help at-risk men to get their lives back in order. They provide for them the tools to help themselves in terms of obtaining a career, something that will help them stabilize their chaotic lives. I feel that by working in the employment center I am, like Galen, using my talents to help others better themselves. It is refreshing to see that people al around the city, and the country, are putting the Jesuit Ideals of cura personalis to work in an attempt to help the marginalized of our society.

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