During my year of service one of the top questions people ask me quite regularly (coming in at #2 after “Wait, do you mean you’re working for FREE?!?) is
“So what exactly do you DO every day?”.
While I would love to perpetuate the image in your head that I spend my days generously giving out food to smiling people in need or high-fiving children who have diligently finished their homework, it’s time to burst that bubble. I’m linking up with Melanie to talk about the often messy never perfect lack of routine that is my daily life. Here goes…
Wake up, avoid the snooze button at all costs, and roll out of bed to throw on some tennis shoes and head to the gym! Ideally, I like to get a quick lift/run workout in made by my wonderful friend Corrie at Train to Win before work. Heavy emphasis on the word ideally…
*FULL DISCLOSURE* I definitely waited until a day where I actually dragged myself out of bed to make the 30 second commute from my house to the gym to post this, no shame. Winter really did me in as far as routines and personal motivation but spring has brought some new resolve.
Throw a jumble of ingredients that sound healthy into a blender to create a quick liquid breakfast and protein boost that can be consumed in the car and fits into the $2/day food allotment. Dump said smoothie in one of our recycled salsa jars and run upstairs to get ready for work.
My favorite smoothie is a little something I like to call “GET IN THE SHOWER NOW OR YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE” made up of spinach, a banana, 2 scoops of PB, 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (big splurge, we split it 3 way) and some almond milk.
Make a quick stop in our house prayer room to light a few candles and read a page or two of whatever inspirational/spiritual book I have on hand, currently working on “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Toll (and by currently I mean for the last 2 months) which I highly recommend.
Sprint out the door, often with damp hair or mascara in hand, sometimes sans the lunch I made the night before, and drive to work.
8:30 am-12:00 pm
Every morning is different, based on my wide variety of responsibilities working in Hispanic outreach at my service site, Catholic Charities.
Mondays are my favorite because they are my planning days, where I spend this time creating lesson plans for the week.
Tuesdays/Thursdays I teach basic ESL to a group of mainly Mexican immigrants.
Wednesdays I spend this time either doing intake work for our Emergency Assistance Clothing Room, or unloading the food truck from the Greater Chicago Food Depository at Casa Catalina Food Pantry.
Fridays I coordinate and manage the Commodity Supplementary Food/ Mother and Child Program, which means I wait for my elderly clients to come pick up their government assistance food packages and help them plan meals they can make using the ingredients given.
Woof down my lunch, if I remembered it, or scrounge from the stock of assorted snacks I keep on hand for those days where I find myself lunchless. I’ve started planning ahead and keeping some spinach, a cheese stick, and an orange at work which has been a lifesaver (thank goodness for past Liz looking out for future Liz!). On particularly crazy days at the office I fill in at the front desk during lunch, which always leads to some stumbling Spanish conversations with often disgruntled clients.
The further into my day I get with this schedule the more and more I’m realizing that there is absolutely no “normal” in my days. Some days at this time I’m still doing intake work, where other days I’m working on database management for our client files. Sometimes I’m at the Bishop Goedert Veteran’s Home and sometimes I’m at the food pantry. Never a dull moment!
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays this is when the tutoring program I coordinate begins. Sweaty kids come sprinting into my classroom complaining (often in Spanish) that they would rather have spicy Cheetos than fruit cups for snack and asking me to refill the water jug 200 times because they are “JUST SO DEHYDRATED”. After helping them get settled I check in to see how things are going at school and home (beyond tutoring I also strive to keep a mentoring relationship between the students and my volunteer tutors). They work on homework for an hour, and then we spend an hour doing some sort of activity like arts and crafts, science experiments, reading aloud, or gym class.
Finish off the 9 hour work day and head home, usually getting caught in a terrifying amount of traffic and reminding myself no less than 20 times that it’s not a big deal, and soon I’ll be home.
We usually eat dinner somewhere between 6:30-8:00, depending on who is cooking and how ambitious they were feeling when they chose their recipe. Two of us cook and do the dishes for the communal meal each night.
If it’s a Wednesday, though, we all come home from work early and eat at 5:00 then head to a different area of the city each week for our development evenings we call community nights, which range in topic. Some of my favorites have been Fr. Fragomeni’s talk about Evangeli Gaudium at the Catholic Theological Union and Dr. Jerry Wagner’s discussion of our Enneagram results and what they mean for us at Loyola University.
Again, depending on the day, there are a number of different things that can be going on at this time. On Mondays we have Spirituality Nights, which I touched on in my post Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude. These nights widely vary in content and are planned by a different community member each week. Last week Carla showed us a documentary about child migrants called Which Way Home, which I think everybody should watch!
Retreat to my room for the evening and try to do some journaling with my last few ounces of energy. Something that’s really rung true with me this year is the idea that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (thanks, Socrates and my college Philosophy requirement!). When I let days go by without stopping to process them they just become part of the daily grind but when I take the chance to take stock of myself and what I learned that day I find growth and God in each day.
Make my nightly phone call to Pete and finally drift off to sleep in hopes of achieving the ever elusive 8 hour night in preparation to start all over tomorrow!
It’s messy and chaotic but this year has been a beautiful way to ground myself in service and learn lessons in simplicity, communication, patience, humility, and the value of taking life one day at a time. One of my favorite lessons has been the ability to laugh at myself, because no matter how well I plan out my day life loves to throw curveballs!
*I’ll be astounded if anybody actually makes it to the end of this post, I’m exhausted just trying to write it! If you’re looking at this, thanks for being a loyal reader and having an interest in what my year of service really means!