By Janelle Lord
’17-’18 Service Year
// grad·iᐧtude // (n) the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.
If I had to sum up these last five months of living in Camden, gratitude would be the word that I would use. There is just so much to be grateful for these past few months that I struggle to even see the negative views that people give the City Invincible. First and foremost, I am grateful for all of my family and friends who are supporting this non-traditional path that I chose to take after graduation. I mean really, how many people can say their parents would fully support you in participating in a service year where you make very little money (after acquiring a good amount of student loan debt) in a city that is over 900 miles from home, and has been considered one of the most dangerous cities in the US in recent years? I am grateful for the friendships I have made the past few years who periodically reach out to me, whether that means a random letter showing up in the mailbox or phone calls that usually last an hour or more. Despite being given the chance to move across the country with one of my best friends and the program not working out for him, I am grateful for the time Andrew and I had in Camden together, as having him here made the transition that much easier than if I had started this adventure alone. I am grateful for the housemates who have become my Camden family and all the various assets that they each add to our house dynamic. The perfectness of my site placement is yet another aspect I am grateful for, the intimacy that comes with a small staff has allowed for me to have a second family in Camden that I can count on. The little angels one day and little terrors the next day that I get the privilege to teach at Holy Name, the teens who never fail to keep me on my toes and allow me to see life through a different lens, and just seeing how generous some of the donors are, especially during the Christmas season, are just a few of the many blessings I thank our Lord for each night before going to bed. I am grateful for all of the opportunities that have been presented to me thus far and countless number of people I have met who are willing to share their stories with me.
However, the single most thing I am grateful these past few months is the ability to expand my horizons. Growing up in small town Wisconsin, I didn’t run into too many people who were a different race, nationality or economic status than I was. Most of the individuals whom I went to school with had pretty easy lives growing up. Here in Camden, I have gotten the chance to meet so many different people than I would never encounter in Wisconsin. These people include individuals whom have lost a loved one to gun violence, individuals who continually struggle both to get clean and then stay clean, kids who have far more going on at home than I could ever imagine, teens who have been told they don’t belong at a certain school solely because of their race, and families who had it not been for the Christmas program we ran at Guadalupe Family Services would have had no presents for their children this year for Christmas. I am truly grateful to be given the chance to listen to these individuals and many more because by listening to those who are excluded, I am able to take their stories and share them with friends and family back home. I hope to help spread awareness about the struggles that these individuals face everyday, and make friends and family aware of the changes that need to be made in a society where they otherwise benefit from and don’t even think about.