I've written about Mercy Volunteer Corps numerous times on this blog, and blogged about it while I was serving.
But last night, after telling my mom that I had picked up the new group form the airport and got them settled into their house, she asked me "and why did they choose to do a year of service?". Her question took me off guard. My (along with my former roommates Dave and Nate) conversation with the three ladies was more about where they are from and where they will be working, plus giving them tips and tricks to living in Detroit. But I failed to really ask them what their motivation was for being here, for deciding to go this route. I can sort of piece together why, based on our conversation, but we didn't go deep into that topic.
And it's probably the most important topic.
Like anything, you get out of MVC what you want to put into it. So your motivation for committing to doing a year of volunteer work, living in a city you don't know with people you've never met, and making only $100 a month- is pretty darn important.
Then I started to think- shoot. Why did I do a year of service? And here is how my thought process went after that.
Usually when people ask me that, I give my blanket answer. I was getting ready to graduate from college. I couldn't find a job. I was googling something at 4 am in regards to Mercy and found Mercy Volunteer Corps. It sounded like a good idea. I liked Mercy, I liked volunteering. Sounded great to me.
And that did actually happen, but why did I actually decide YES, let's do this. I had other options. I could have moved back home with Mom and Dad and spent my summer searching for a job. My uncle had offered for me to come down to Tennessee and stay with them for a while, look for jobs in Nashville (my dream city) and help with his kids. I could have found a few part time jobs in my college town while I looked for a "real job" and stayed on the west side of the state. But something made me apply to Mercy Volunteer Corps instead. And a few months later, there I was at orientation, meeting my roommates for the first time.
I was the first and only Mercy Volunteer to be placed in their hometown. I rarely went downtown back then, though, and knew very little about Detroit. But the site where I wanted to work was in Detroit (Cristo Rey High School), and so I ended up there. With my parents just 30 minutes away.
All of this was fate. For some reason I applied. For some reason I was placed in Detroit. My year with MVC was probably the best year of my life. It's hard to explain what happens to a person when they are living a simple lifestyle, have three amazing roommates and are surrounded by compassionate, loving people. But it sure changes you. Some of my coworkers now will complain about their young adult children, and my go to answer is "they should do a year of service". Seriously. It should be like a requirement. Because it changes you. But only if you want to be changed. You have to be open to change, to seeing new things.
And maybe that, my friends, is why I chose to do it. Maybe I was ready for a change. I had spent my four years of college struggling- with anxiety, food issues, drinking, fighting with "friends", etc. I think I was looking for a change, something to ground me again and make me see the world a little brighter.
MVC exceeded my expectations. The program changed me, that's for darn sure. I had a better relationship with both myself and God when the year wrapped up. I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. I took my spirituality seriously. I learned how to save and how to live simply. But most importantly, I think that's the year that taught me to love. To love myself and to love life. To give love and how to show love.
Thank you, Mercy Volunteer Corps, for not only changing my life, but for continuing to change others.
To the newbies: Welcome to Detroit. It's a beautiful city, despite what you hear on the news. Give us a chance, jump right in. Embrace the new experiences. May you learn to love.
PS: The blog title for this post is taken from the song Peace and Love by Blessid Union of Souls, which reminds me much of my year with MVC.