I am pleased to share the following reflection on Karen House by Toria Rendell, who took Social Justice in the fall of 2007.
I had the privilege of spending over 35 hours this semester at Karen House, a Catholic Worker House for homeless women and children. I set off the fire alarm, gave gum to a little boy when I wasnâ€™t supposed to, made about 10 pounds of unnecessary banana bread, and watched concerned but mostly helpless as certain children decided to pinch and hit each other. Most would laugh if I tried to describe that as â€œservice.â€ But â€œinsertionâ€ is just right. I most certainly inserted myself into an environment I have never experienced. I was in a foreign place to me, so naturally I learned and grew.
At the beginning, I was apprehensive. I didnâ€™t know what to expect from the house, from the residents, or from the children. I really didnâ€™t even know what would be expected of me. Knowing Dr. Chmiel went to Karen House weekly made me even more nervous because in the end I would be writing about a location heâ€™s familiar with. He could judge what I say more criticallyâ€”what if I say something about Karen House thatâ€™s not correct? He would know everything about the experiences at Karen House. Of course I didnâ€™t know then what I know now. Thereâ€™s no possible way Dr. Chmiel can already know everything about my experience at Karen House because it has been such a personal experience. Karen House has same physical location for both of us, but gives different experiences. What we take from our time there is unique to us. Even when I go with Kelly and we talk about it afterwards, I realize this. We saw the same things, talked to almost all the same people, did the same things, but the things that stuck out to her are different from what stuck with me.