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Sarah C. Erker '08
I mentor K through fifth graders at a feeder school for the Watts housing project Nickerson Gardens and coordinate the after-school program at Urban Compass. On our fall retreat, we were asked to write an "I am" prayer. An “I am” prayer puts oneself in the shoes of one's clients or students. Writing this prayer was a very emotional experience for me, but one that gave me a renewed sense of mission and compassion for my students. I would like to share my "I am" prayer:
I am the child of drug addicts. I am a victim of abuse. I am forced to go through the motions of a 'normal' childhood while experiencing hardships most adults never face. I am considering joining a gang—not for status, but for survival. I am only 7 years old. I am intelligent, but don't know my own potential. I am struggling to make it through each day. I am fine and normal from the outside looking in, but if you saw what happened behind closed doors, you would be surprised that I am still here. I am able to succeed and make a better life for myself; I just need to be given a chance.
During my time as a Jesuit Volunteer, I have discovered that one of the most important qualities of a JV is the ability to adapt to new and constantly changing situations. Every day has presented a new challenge and another test of my dedication to the four tenets I have committed to live by this year. Surprisingly, living in community has proven to be one of the most challenging tenets. I was surprised by this because as a member of a 10-person family, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it means to live in community. I am fortunate to have a wonderful JVC community (we always talk about how lucky we are to be living together) but even the most perfect communities are complex and must overcome obstacles to achieve cohesion.
In an ideal world, I would be living in an intentional community with daily bonding sessions and maybe even a mandatory hug quota. I have learned, however, that this would not be a good community at all, because that is my idea of community, and I am only one person. A community cannot exist without its members, and as people are complex and dynamic beings, the composition of a community is ever-evolving. The challenge and beautiful thing about living in community is that one cannot predict the dynamic of one's community. While this was frustrating at first, it has proven to be one of the greatest lessons I have learned as a JV. I have been challenged to hold true to my idea of community, while being sensitive to the needs and wants of my community members. I have learned to not only tolerate our different perspectives of community living, but to also love my casamates for who they are and what they bring to community.