I love talking to people one on one, it is like my favorite thing to do. You know how some people’s hobbies are going out and trying new foods, biking, traveling. I think I’d say mine is just talking to people. I mean it’s alright getting to know people when their friends or family are around, but I think there is just a certain something about being with someone one on one.
This past week I’ve been hearing a lot about various people’s stories. I went to New Mexico with Natalie to record interviews with some of the Loretto Community so we could put them on the blogs I’ve been creating for them. It took us about eight hours to get to Albuquerque with just a few stops. Since I have spent a lot of time with Natalie I have gotten to know her really well, but every time I meet some of her good friends I learn more about her. She is a small women with a low voice, but she has not done small things in life. She has been through racism ever since she was young, she was in ROTC for many years and joined the military. She spent some summers working as a park ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, she was not raised Catholic and became a vowed sister much later than most of the others. And just so much more that I wouldn’t want to tell because you’d just have to get to know her. She is a very loving person and I am so glad she is one of my supervisors this summer. I’ve loved getting to know her story, and I also enjoyed hearing everyone else’s in New Mexico. There is a sister who retired early from taking on big administrative jobs to take care of her real biological sister that has down syndrome. There is a co-member (meaning they did not take the vows, but take part in Loretto events) who came upon Loretto sisters by chance and loved the order that she wanted some part of it. There was another women who was a sister, but left the order to adopt and raise fifteen children from various countries, she eventually married and had a daughter of her own. Another women who I interviewed told of how she was a sister for many many years, but at 42 she had a daughter who was born deaf and realized her newly wedded husband would not live soon after.
I have heard so many stories this week, including another from a women who has been a part of the Catholic Worker for so many years. When I first met her she seemed like the calmest person I have ever met. I knew she lived in the house before as a worker so I thought she must have a good heart as well. A couple of days ago I found out from my co-workers that she had been in prison for some years. I couldn’t believe someone as serene as her could go to prison…I wondered for what?! I am writing about her story because it touched me so much. She was raised Quaker, but she said something drew her to the Catholic church. When she talked about it, she made it obvious that at first she was unsure about some things about Catholism, but that once she got Baptized she has had complete faith in God. She talked about her experiences as if God himself had spoken to her. Of course, she said he didn’t speak to her in the literal sense, but she just felt He wanted her to continue on a certain path. She finally told me the reason she went to prison. She said something drew her to the Rocky Flats Plant in Denver (after she knew that God wanted her to serve in Peace and Social Justice). She said she always liked protesting in places where there weren’t a bunch of people with signs and chants ans the sort. She simply trespassed property of the plant where they were building nuclear weapons to pray. She explained all the legal stuff that happened throughout all the times she got out of jail and went right back to the plant. She told of how there was a judge who seemed to realize that she wasn’t try to do anyone harm and decided to remove her sentence (taking her out of prison). Her total years in jail in the 10 years she was peacefully protesting was about 5 years, until the plant eventually shut down. She then decided to stay in Denver despite of growing up in New York. Another part of her story that I found amazing is that she took personal vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, but never joined an order. She has spent most of her life helping others, or fighting ideas that she doesn’t agree with…peacefully of course.
On Monday I needed to go to Bank of America and I hadn’t because there is only like two in Denver and I didn’t really know where they were located. As I was on the computer I asked one of the people who lives here at the house if she knew which one would be easier to get to. She said there was one like 20 minutes away walking distance or 5 minutes away driving. I looked it up and didn’t see any parking near it so I thought I would walk. I told the woman that I didn’t really know the area and asked if she would accompany me downtown. She kind of laughed at my request and asked if I was scared of going by myself, I explained to her how I didn’t know the city and she just left the room. Now, this woman is known to be stubborn and think she knows it all, she isn’t the friendliest in the house. But after a few minutes she asked “So are we going?”. I immediately got my things together and walked out the door. As we took the first steps on the street she asked “Aren’t you scared?” I said, “No, why would I be?” She just repeated “So you’re not scared?” And I just said I wasn’t. I guess most people are intimidated by the way she carries herself, but I had no reason to be. As we walked together I asked her questions about her life and she surprisingly answered just about everything. I learned she has two boys and she was married, but got divorced. We talked about the Denver Camping ban and about how she’s lived her life. Once we got to downtown and I was done doing bank stuff she said she’d treat me to some cheap soda. We walked into a Subway and I wasn’t sure how we were going to get cheap soda when she walked up to the counter and laid 50 cents out to the cashier telling her she was getting a refill. Apparently the woman who worked there knew her, so she let her put soda in an empty bottle she was carrying with her. She offered some to me and I accepted…after putting a straw in it. We then walked down an alley and she said “Ooooo we are walking down an alley, aren’t you scared?” I’m still not sure if she was being sarcastic or being serious, but I said nope, I’m not scared. And I wasn’t, it was daytime and it wasn’t too sketchy. So anyway, she wanted to introduce me to some of her friends. We found her friend Kent who seemed really nice and asked a lot of questions. She also wanted me to meet one of her friends that was drunk earlier in the day, but I’m glad we didn’t find him. She told me of how sometimes she would spend her days with her friends that were homeless, but she also tried applying to jobs when she wasn’t there. Once we got back to the house she said that she’d take me out downtown again, but this time she’d take me to the city library. I hope we end up going so I can ask her more questions and so she can make me laugh some more.
Being here has made me value life more than I ever have before. One person can do so much in a lifetime, it’s unbelievable. I’m really glad I’ve talked to so many people about their experiences and what they think about certain issues. I’ve learned a lot about my host family (I love the story of how they ended up together), and of the people I’ve been working closely with (my supervisor graduated high school because of minor casualties), and of some people that I only met once because now I see how there are so many different paths to happiness. I might not become a sister to show my faithfulness to God, and I might not live as simply as some of my co-workers, but in my own way I know I’ll contribute to society in a positive way. A couple days ago I got an email from a woman I’m working with on blogs (we want to get some co-members to get to know the sisters better by having them interview them). We were discussing plans on how to go about it. She wished me a good time in New Mexico and said “You are changing our lives!!! Plus you’re just plain fun”. I am so glad to know that I am appreciated here and that I’m making a difference this summer. It’s been great so far, and I can’t wait to see what this next month brings.