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Now I Become Myself

Some brief thoughts….

I’ve been a reflective person for a long time now. Always looking inward at myself, my personal and spiritual growth, and always looking for an answer to the question “Why am I here?”  Two more questions stick out to me that are necessary in tackling that question: Who am I? and What will I do?

Who am I requires deep reflection over time, coupled with challenges and faith. Understanding yourself, your skill sets, your gifts, talents, passions, are all part of understanding who you are. Understanding who you are not is equally as important. Honesty about who you are and who you are not is an essential part to self-reflection.

Vocation- in determining a vocation, it has always been important to me to do something that is beneficial to the community that I live in, because I do not live just for myself–I have not been raised by myself, nor do I live limited to serving and pleasing myself. Therefore, it is important for me to have a vocation that is beneficial to others. Next, a vocation must have interest or passion–something that I care about and am invested in.

To me vocation is about living a good life. A good life that respects, appreciates, and upholds justice for all. This is different from ‘having a good life.’  The question “Why am I here” may be answered with “to live a good life,” which in my opinion encompasses living a life in service to others, rather than living a life in service to myself. I cannot be without others.

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Now I Become Myself: The Faces We Wear

The article “Now I Become Myself” by Parker Palmer, I couldn’t help but make a connection to a few commercials I had recently watched. Palmer discusses how people should use their God-given talents to help others in order to fulfill their personal happiness. However, many people do not know “who they are” until the second half of their life. Palmer asserts that the first half of our lives we wear metaphorical “masks” that hide the real us, in order to please other people. For example, the commercials I watched comment on pre-market discrimination, specifically sexism. Take a look…

Palmer believes these masks are futile, and that, “Faking it, in the service of high values, is no virtue and has nothing to do with vocation. It is an ignorant, sometimes arrogant, attempt to override one’s nature, and it will always fail.”

After watching these commercials, I’m not sure if Palmer is being realistic. While I hope every young girl discovers if she wants to be a scientist, engineer, or mathematician, I think the masks society forces them to wear from such an early age may become permanent. They may never realize that they liked getting dirty and experimenting, like “one of the guys.”

I do think we are at a crossroads. Commercials like these, and even a few Pantene commercials celebrate girls’ and womens’ strengths and comment on the double-standards, insults, or stereotypes that females must deal with.

Palmer may think that the masks girls put on will “wear off,” but according to the statistics these masks seem pretty permanent past 4th grade. But that is why programs like STEM are so beneficial. They encourage girls to take off those masks and follow THEIR dreams, not their parents’ or teachers’.

 

Half Way Point

Im half way through the summer internship with American Red Cross. I initially wanted to learn more about the ways in which American Red Cross serves people, and in addition I wanted to get a good feel for how a non-profit organization operates. I’ve learned that the Red Cross stay very close to its mission statement in terms of service and has very direct goals: To prevent and alleviate human suffering.

The Red Cross carries this out in three phases stretched out through various departments: Prepare, Respond, Recover. I’ve had some difficulty aligning my work in Youth Services and engaging with youth, mostly through Preparedness service work, in a way that also reflects the mission and goals of CILSA and the Summer Fellowship. I have found it very difficult to put into perspective of serving the poor and marginalized through social justice advocacy when the organization that I am serving does not directly serve that group.

The dynamic of working with those who are well-off enough to help themselves, thus are able and willing to help others is a completely different dynamic from engaging with and working with those who cannot help themselves. Particularly, my work with youth engagement has led me to serve the community by getting the youth engaged and active in service advocating “service” in general. Most of my work has been promotion of volunteerism to the youth in the community.

In the past week, I have began searching for other areas that I can get involved in the Denver community. I have reached out to the Catholic Workers of Denver and spent some time volunteering with them at their house. There the Catholic Workers serve 15 individuals and families that are struggling to find work and housing, while they temporarily stay at the Catholic Workers house.

 

4 Weeks In

So, I’m halfway through this summer fellowship experience… And let me tell you, time is flying by! My host family is absolutely amazing, and I have been busy training before work and spending time at the beach with friends on the weekends.

What have I learned?

I have learned that I do not want to have kids any time soon! This might sound bad but being around twenty 2nd and 3rd graders is pretty draining. My host family has two daughters ages 8 and 6, and boy do they have energy! I love all the kids I teach and my new “sisters” but kids are a LOT of work… Seeing “kids being kids” makes me really appreciate my parents and their patience and dedication to raising my sister and me. I guess you could say I have learned a lesson in patience, because EVERYTHING takes longer with kids. Don’t get me wrong, kids do say the cutest things and are sooo funny at times. But they really are a full time job. But I also see how much their parents love them, both where I work and at home with my host family.

How have I served?

I have served the Linda Vista Community through the Academic Club. I have directly served twenty 2nd and 3rd graders, reading with them, helping them with their homework, and doing literacy activities. I have also listened to their stories, heard about and gotten to meet their families.

What impact have I made?

Last Wednesday the San Diego Unified School District Superintendent came to visit the Academic Club to see how it is run, etc. At the end, the ED of Bayside Community Center asked for funding for more Academic Clubs in other high-risk schools. The superintendent stated that she was on our side and was very impressed with the program’s success and high demand/enrollment.

Even though I have only been here a few weeks, I feel like my students are improving. One student came up today saying, “Miss Carina, by teacher wanted me to tell you that my reading level is J now!” She was reading at a H level last week, but had tested two letters higher! She was soooo excited, and it made me happy to see her excited to read.

What’s to come?

I hope to learn more about discipline and how to better handle the students. They still kind of view me as a “substitute” teacher, and so I am still adjusting to their high energy. I would also like to better get to know the new ED of Bayside, Corey, and ask him what I can do to help more at Bayside. I plan on proposing some new literacy lesson plans and activities that coincide with the new Common Core that the students will be tested on next year. I have been researching the Common Core and noticed how it focuses a lot on critical thinking and reading comprehension rather than just memorizing facts or asking opinion questions.

All in all, I am falling in love with San Diego and found myself looking at grad school programs at USD, UCSD, and SDSU… Specifically looking at Public Policy, Economic Sociology, or Law degrees. This fellowship has inspired me to become a voice of leadership for the disadvantaged, and I believe Public Policy, Law, or Sociology would allow me to become the best advocate I could be.

 

 

Justice and common good

Justice and the common good are issues that are often misunderstood when taking into account the difficulty of separating personal or religious morality and public service or the law. Everyone has there own influences into what the “good life” is and how to obtain it. Each person has their own understanding of how the good life may be practiced as well as shaped, either by personal choice or by societal standards. The issue is that if everyone has their own opinion on what the good life looks like and how to live it out, how can we as a society come to agree, much less understanding of how to best live?

Justice and the common good poses questions such as: is what is good for the many, also the good for me? Who is the arbiter in deciding what is the good? Does society decide? Do judges? Do I decide? Or perhaps my religion? What is moral law and how do I determine it?

Socio-political issues today cannot be intrinsically removed from moral biases unless if those issues are removed entirely from government judgment. Issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, etc. will ultimately presume a stance one way or the other and cannot remain neutral and govern the many, unless the decisions are left to individuals to make on their own.

It seems as if the place that justice and the common good must be is in the collaborative discussions, dialogues and education of people to people about important issues.

One of the core values of the American Red Cross is that it takes a neutral position in politics, war, and religion. That is why it is also known internationally as the Red Crescent. Justice and the common good as defined by the Red Cross is that it prevents and alleviates ALL human suffering, regardless of who you are. Justice and common good then are considered universal and common for all persons.

 
Video

Justice of the Common Good: Three Types of Justice

Author Michael Sandel begins his argument with an anecdote regarding John Kennedy’s speech about his Catholic religion not effecting his judgement if he were to be president. Here is the video; it’s refreshing and inspiring to hear it rather than just read it:

Sandel contrasts this with Obama’s platform of having faith as a guide. While both liberal and conservative aim for “neutrality,” the facets of this neutrality are very different. For liberals, neutrality means neutral government intervention in social areas, and for conservatives it meant neutral government intervention in the economic realm. Sandel goes on to discuss the morally-charged classic debates between the two sides: abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sandel’s take on marriage was something I had heard my Labor Economics professor discuss earlier. Instead of having a conventional “marriage contract,” all relationships should be a choice between the one, two, or three people, not a government institution. While this point is extremely radical and will most likely never gain ground, the point it brings up is pertinent. This particular part of the reading stood out to me most, because it was so radical and freeing of past constricting social standards.

Sandel summarizes some possible themes of “new politics of the common good:”

Citizenship, sacrifice, and service

The moral limits of markets

Inequality, solidarity, and civic virtue

A politics of moral engagement

Working at Bayside’s Academic Club, I found myself focusing on the third theme that Sandel proposes. The issue of economic inequality is so apparent. Even within the Linda Vista Community, there is a part of the neighborhood which has larger, more suburban type housing, and right down the road are small, run down apartments with no cars outside because the inhabitants cannot afford one. Sandel says that inequality has been a political problem since the 1970s, but I believe it is much more glaringly obvious now, and a problem my generation needs to tackle. Because, with the loss of a middle class, democracy will soon be lost as well. Focusing on this problem will ” help highlight the connection between distributive justice and the common good” (Sandel, 268).   Creating common spaces where people from all social and economic classes can meet and connect will foster the important relationships a functional democracy needs.

 

Post 2: Volunteerism

This summer I am volunteering with the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter in Denver, Colorado.

The mission of the American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

My role for the summer is the Youth Services Program intern. My two main responsibilities will to be plan and implement a two day Youth Leadership Workshop for youth leaders in the Denver area to develop leadership and project planning skills; my second responsibility is to schedule and coordinate Pillow Case Project–a workshop that aims to educate 3rd and 5th graders about disaster preparedness–around the local community.

It has been challenging working in a non-profit corporation work setting without many people in my peer group. The challenging aspects of working with a workforce of volunteers versus employees gives additional challenges. It is a different dynamic working with volunteers– the motivation is different. I hope to learn more about the operations and different services of the Red Cross and I hope to engage more into the culture or recruiting and retaining volunteers and building a spirit and passion for volunteerism.