Reality check: I'm leaving for Chicago in three weeks.
My program, MercyWorks sent me an orientation packet a while ago. I was super excited when it came, skimmed through it all, then got really apprehensive and anxious and shoved it under my bed, where it has stayed since. Not that I don't want to go to Chicago, or that I'm not more happy anxious than nervous anxious, but seeing everything on paper--schedules, what to bring, contact list--whoa. I guess a part of me doesn't want to mess anything up, and the best way to do that is to ignore things, right?
I did pull out the suggested reading list, and I've been plugging away at the eleven books meant to get us into the simple living/social justice/professional development/service/spirituality/community mindset. Some of them were real flops (a guide on simple living, for example, which suggested things like growing a weed garden instead of spending so much time on landscaping), but most were worthy of my summer freedom.
There Are No Children Here - Alex Kotlowitz
This book held my interest mostly due to its setting in Chicago. I know basically nothing about the Windy City, and this sociological snapshot of two brothers growing up in Chicago helped to ground my own thoughts of moving there for a year. My first weeks of living in Rome felt like a story happening to someone else, and I'm pretty sure Chicago could feel that way as well.
Doing the Truth in Love - Fr. Michael Himes
For me, this book served to reaffirm my decision to enter into a year of service. So many of Fr. Himes' insights resonated with my beliefs that actions speak volumes. We might speak a truth, but in actuality we "do" Truth all the time. Everything we do shows others the Truth we believe.
The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace - M. Scott Peck
The thing I'm probably most looking forward to for this year is living in community with thirteen other like-minded people. I imagine it's going to be like Real World: Chicago, only with a faith and service twist. The thing is, community doesn't just happen. This book describes the typical phases a community goes through, the struggles, and the immense benefits community brings. You'll also notice the subtitle is community making and peace, NOT peace making and community. Most people feel as though we must reach world peace before we can begin the process of creating a world community. Not so, says Scotty. First we must make a community, then peace will naturally follow.
My Life With the Saints - James Martin, SJ
This memoir, the story of one man's spiritual journey, was a fun read. Each chapter introduced a different saint whose life had affected the writer's. The book also underlined the idea of a communion of saints, a community of believers--the idea that we are all maybe not saints, but saintly, and as such can find kindred souls among the saints.
The Long Loneliness - Dorothy Day
One of James Martin's influences, Dorothy Day honestly reveals her spiritual struggles in her autobiography. I just started this one, but Dorothy's self-effacing tone and blatant honesty makes it an easy, if not introspective, read. I already see a lot of Dorothy in myself, especially her thoughts on writing: "Writing a book is hard, because you are 'giving yourself away.' But if you love, you want to give yourself....You write about yourself because in the long run all man's problems are the same, his human needs of sustenance and love."