Lessons from “Hidden Figures”

Sunday, Molly and I discovered the matinee selection of the local theater and enjoyed ourselves watching “Hidden Figures.” A brief synopsis, the movie tells the true story of three fierce and brilliant African American women working for NASA in the 60s, whose audacity and mathematics shape the race to space.

hiddenAt one point in the movie, Mary Jackson, arguably the fiercest of the bunch with irreproachable tenacity, decides to apply as an engineer at NASA following a higher positioned colleague’s promptings. After submitting her application, her supervisor directs her to the fine print of the employee handbook where she can read for herself that she is unqualified for the position. Indeed, she lacks coursework that can only be completed at a local white-only high school.

Later, when Mary vents about the injustice, Dorothy nearly silences her with her bluntness: “either you stop complaining, or do something about it. I’m trying to play cards.”* Mary, rather than move on, decides to bring her case to court. Having done her research, she harnesses all her spirit into an appeal to the judge on a personal level. “You know what it’s like to be the first. You were the first in your family to attend college…the first judge to be re-elected….since I cannot change the color of my skin, I will be the first female African American engineer in this country, with your help.”*

Following Dorothy’s example, she states the facts then calls the judge to make his choice. She invites him to something bigger, something greater. “Your honor, of all the cases you will listen to today, which one will people talk about 100 years from now?”*

Two thoughts. First, we have a choice and we are lying to ourselves if we pretend otherwise. It boils down to this. Will I talk, or will I live? Will I say my vote doesn’t count, settle for anger and despair, or let the world shape me? Or will I cast my vote, courageously give what I have to offer, and fight like hell to live for the greatness I was made for? And, if I don’t like the routes others are taking, what better alternative will I offer?

Second, her honesty is a part of love, even when it hurts. Mary’s friends love her enough to be honest. No “there,
there,” just a blunt kick in the pants. Dorothy loves her too much to let her beat around the bush, and in short tells her ‘you have two choices, so don’t act helpless. Now chose.’ Tough love at it’s finest.

In the words of Gandhi that both inspire and haunt me, “Be the change you wish to see.”

By Hope House resident, Sara Haines.


*quotes are respectably paraphrased

Photo courtesy of The New York Times

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For Love of the Game

I have really loved playing basketball on Tuesday nights over the past few months. Some nights, there is so much energy, and other nights, I come up with many excuses of why I’m holding back. “I’m tired”, “someone else will get the rebound”, “I hurt my thumb”, “oh look, a piece of fuzz that looks like a seahorse.” (that last one is not an excuse, but you would be amazed at the things you notice while avoiding hustling).

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And then there’s Open Gym on Friday.

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The guys tonight were laughing and trying to dunk left and right. A lot of tomfoolery, some ridiculousness and outrageous attempts, but also audacity. I don’t think they noticed how tired they were getting until the very end. They were too focused on how much fun they were having, and getting that perfect dunk. I think I had more energy during game 3 because their drive and spirit wore off on me. I’m physically tired and it’s past this granny’s bedtime, but I’m going to bed refreshed with hope. I’m so grateful for these guys.

A reflection by Hope House resident, Sara Haines

Hope Beyond the Ivy

A reflection by Hope House resident, Molly Gabaldo.

WELP. They did it. The Cubs took the cup. It’s about time!

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I have enjoyed, throughout my life, the blessing and the curse of being a cradle Cubs fan. Most Cub fans understand what I mean when I say that I never really left that cradle, always returning for comfort for our inevitable string of losses, year after year after year. I have vivid memories of watching the game with my dad, TV muted (of course) so he could hear the radio announcers on the speakers that only worked in the garage: commitment. With every loss, I never recall a time where I questioned my seemingly unanimous familial decision to commit ourselves to Cub fandom. Why? Because being a Cubs fan cultivates within you a sense of undying hope in a seemingly hopeless battle against all odds (namely, a goat called Murphy).

Okay, fine. Maybe my analogy is a little dramatic, it’s just a game, right? But the reality is that waiting 108 years for your beloved team to win the World Series is having faith in something greater than baseball. It is recognizing your part within a community, a community built on hope and tradition, a community built on family and common perseverance in the quest for victory. This is the same hope we must cultivate within hearts on a quest for social justice in a society where the ‘signs of the times’ are pointing towards all odds being against us. This journey is, and will, continue on for much longer than 108 years and will not end with a beautifully executed double play. However, garnering hope brings with it great pride and greater reward.

So, Chicago. Let us now believe in our community in the same way that we believe in the Cubs. Let us pour our resources and hearts into recognizing beauty within loss. Let us rally around those within our city who hold this same hope but pour it into their survival in circumstances where all odds seem to be working against them. It is our responsibility. It is our pride. #LetsGo

Love Thy Neighbor

A reflection by Hope House resident, Sara Haines

With regards to social justice, many of us I’m sure are aware of the typical dichotomies: rich and poor, weak and strong, powerful and powerless, etc. The phrase “to love one’s neighbor” also comes to lovemind, and I think of my homeless neighbor, my work neighbor, my basketball neighbor, etc. But what about the rich neighbor, strong neighbor, or powerful neighbor? I ran into a situation where in trying to love one neighbor, I found myself enemy to the other.

I travelled 100+ miles in two hours to Pontiac Correctional Facility with a client so she could see her sweetheart for the first time in two years. Being in her mid sixties, she forgot many details from two years ago, but she told me of the joy that seeing him brought her. Upon entering the prison, the guard wasted no time welcoming us. He talked over my client to me, and when he did speak to her, he used a condescending and exasperated tone of voice. Maybe he didn’t like us because we were city folk in this little town. Who knows.

After twenty minutes of patronizing, he denied entry to my client because she was not dressed according to protocol. He contacted additional staff to confirm that the rules hadn’t changed since she last visited, and spoke loud enough so that all the visitors waiting heard that “she had no excuse for not knowing clothing protocol.” After getting off the phone he continued to shame her saying, “Don’t tell me you didn’t know.” Embarrassed at her failing memory and distraught at possibly not seeing her sweetheart, my client composed herself and, with all sincerity, thanked the guard for the only help he did provide, the suggestion to go to the nearest store to purchase appropriate attire.

After a drive to Walmart, she was able to visit as planned and treated the guard with kindness, but I could not bring myself to look at him. He could have explained her error in so many ways, but chose to play hard ball, no compassion in sight. Replaying her kindness to him in my head stoked my anger even more. But when I found myself thinking “he didn’t deserve it,” I knew I needed to hit the breaks.

Suddenly as I left the prison, an image came to mind: two siblings were stand
ing before their father right after one
hurt the other. The father didn’t side with the victim, or shame the offender. Rather, his heart hurt for both. It hurt him to see his daughter wounded and see that his son loved so little and inflicted pain. I felt like God was saying, “you want to love one person, but I have something better. I want you to love both. You want justice, but there’s something better. It’s mercy.”

Continuing to reflect on my client’s response, I realized that she was like the daughter who, after seeing her father hurt with her, looked at her brother with love, forgiveness, and mercy. I also realized that an ounce of her mercy weighed more than a pound of my anger, because God used it to soften my own hardness of heart towards my brother. I soon found myself pitying the guard. My heart ached for him and his hard  heart. And that ache turned into prayer. I prayed for him, that my client’s mercy would leave just enough of an imprint on his heart that, at the right time, he would encounter mercy again and that it would change his life.

 

 

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Philippians 2:1-2

My Top Ten

A reflection by Hope House resident, Sara Haines

In no particular order, here are some of my memorable moments from the past 6 months at Hope House:

  1. gymMeeting some awesome individuals and learning about their passions at The Port’s Open House in May.

I met a woman who significantly reduced her need for medication to manage her mental illness through her cooking by learning about nutrition and its effect on the body. She now teaches others, especially in low-income areas, how to cook vegan on a budget.

  1. Monday night Basketball & Friday open gym

We’ve had a good crew come on Monday nights and it has been awesome to pick up the game again. I’ve gotten to pop in a few times, and play some, with the guys on Friday too.

  1. Morning runs around the neighborhood

I remember feeling more at home going for a my fist run here after I moved in. Swap-O-Rama before the action begins, food stands opening up for business on street corners, nooks and crannies of buildings that I otherwise don’t notice, hidden gardens in people’s yards…these are just some of the treasures.

  1. Going to Holy Thursday mass with a service immersion group

Traditionally on this night, the priest washes the feet of the congregation the way Jesus washed the feet of the apostles to teach them about humility and service. I had just moved in and this resonated deeply with me.

  1. Sunsets from the rooftop

A great way to unwind after work and just enjoy the clouds. I’ve also found respite from concrete at McKinley Park when I just needed more green.

  1. Deep cleaning the house (unofficially dubbed “Wax and Wine”) with Kevin, Molly, and Kristen

Kevin was such a good sport, single handedly cleaning every blade of every ceiling fan. Literally. He hurt his shoulder and could only use one arm to clean. Molly and Kristen demolished all signs of dirt in the kitchen.

  1. Joining Anthony for the Bread Truck rounds

Besides running, this was another way I got acclimated to the neighborhood.

  1. Talking with the kids on the block

Some of the kiddos down the street are so affectionate and love to give hugs. I know one day in particular, I didn’t even realize that’s what I needed.

  1. Talking Dorothy Day with Molly

…at house meeting, at reflection, just because…Honest, relatable, audacious, self-sacrificing. I’m loving learning more about her and her journey to love. I’d recommend All is Grace: A Biography of Dorothy Day by Jim Forest.

  1. Checking out local farmer’s markets.

I made it to the Plant and the McKinley Park markets, and got some really good deals. I’m a sucker for farm fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. The Plant also had other vendors who sold handmade beeswax products in really sweet scents like chocolate orange.

 

What’s your song?

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Reflection by Molly Gabaldo, HOPE House resident

No AC in August. Violence spiking. No doctor for clinic this weekend. Critically ill patients at work. Internal self awareness and conscience producing undue anxiety. Burn-out is real.

I have learned more about myself this year than in much of my life combined. The decisions that I have made to be intentional about being uncomfortable and challenged have produced in me a higher level of awareness; awareness is exhausting. An excerpt from Thomas Merton’s famous “No Man is an Island” struck me deeply today:

Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filling all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life’s leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succeed in producing a hell on earth”

Please excuse the drama of this post, but Merton’s words are just as much of a reality today as they were when he wrote them in 1915. How often do we find ourselves with our faces in our phones, finding any opportunity to fill our mind with anything but a reflective moment, preferring to escape into the lives of others on our Facebook wall? Some of us can’t even go to the bathroom without a scroll down Instagram…you know who you are.  And yes, this is oh so cliche to note the distraction of phones in today’s society to living our lives fully; but this is the reality that we have created.

The constancy that I choose to create in my own life is creating an inability to feel the interface of who God is in my walk, in my day to day. This is the reality of burn-out. Merton goes on to say:

If we have no silence, God is not heard in our music.  If we have no rest, God does not bless our work.  If we twist our lives out of shape in order to fill every corner of them with action and experience, God will silently withdraw from our hearts.”

When we are so distracted by the trauma, tragedy, self giving or absorption of our world that we fail to pause, we fail a community that longs to hear our song.  This is a reminder to self: to embrace the silence in the same way action is embraced, and allow the music of our lives to move from static sound to melody.

Where’s the love?

Reflection by Sara Haines, a Hope House resident

Almost two months ago, I needed to take a member back to the ER, specifically to the trauma center, to have her stitches removed. The ER sported several amenities…plasma screen in the waiting room, new wheelchairs…not to mention several eager nurses. This environment contrasted severely to my image of a trauma center ER. In our post-work conversations, Molly described people piled in hallways, and patients complaining about lack of service while just down the hall a patient is coding as nurses race to save her. These are just a few regular scenarios she’s shared with me.*

I thought of a passage from gospel of Matthew: “For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:46-48).

Spacious waiting rooms and ample staff make being nice to patients much easier than overcrowded halls filled with gunshot wound patients. I believe the latter challenges one’s faith and authentic love. Faith that, whatever he or she has to give, God will make it enough, even if it does not appear so to anyone else.

“You people are all so nice,” the member commented to the nurses who assisted her, a valid observation. Yet again I think of the nurses who struggle daily to love the ignorant patient who is tired of waiting for water, while also trying to save the patient who was stabbed and just flatlined. These nurses get low ratings from patients for not giving the patients what they want immediately, if the patient takes the time to rate their service at all.

But even if the ratings do come in low, I am confident that God sees every ounce of love mustered. It’s his perfection we are striving for, not ours, and his perfection is love. I’m two months late of nurses appreciation week, but here’s to the men and women who take up our crosses with us when we are suffering.

*Molly works at Advocate Christ, one of two Hospitals with a Level 1 Trauma Center which received many of  Chicago’s South Side trauma patients. (Trauma care: FAQ,  http://www.uchospitals.edu/pdf/uch_028322.pdf)

Hold the salt

Reflection by Hope House resident, Sara Haines

A few weeks ago, I returned from work saltier that a potato chip (and I mean the regular kind, no reduced sodium here). I threw a nice pity party for myself, stewing over all my inadequacies at work. I dressed for a run, even though I knew the endorphins would improve my mood. Really, having decent running shoes and good health is so rough, especially on breezy summer days of 75 degrees. I had it hard.

Running in this neighborhood at 6pm is unadvisable so I ran laps in the park. By lap two I was still salty, now sweaty, and feeling like an idiot as I ran in circles. I tripped over sod several times trying not to interrupt the soccer spectators. This little park wasn’t good enough, not compared to other trails and paths I’ve run on. Just like how I wasn’t doing good enough at work as I compared myself to co-workers and other great people I know.

Then as I run past some people, I overhear, “I’m collectin child support from you and you don’t know me? Whateva.” Somehow that comment pierced my self-centeredness and comparison. And like that, honest reality broke up my pity-party. Maybe she was joking. It didn’t seem like it. I started looking up as I ran. Some people smiled back, while others looked away. “All who try to save their life will lose it. But those who lose their life for my sake, will find it.” The Holy Spirit reminded me in that moment that I moved to BOTY asking God to shed me of my selfishness, shatter my comfort zone, and break my hardness of heart.

In this humid, balmy weather, I am thinking about that day. It really was beautiful out, and I ran two miles.100_8173

 

How is He working? Who are His people?

Reflection by Hope House resident, Kristen Eckert

These are some of the questions I have recently been confronted with on my drive to and from work.

In the process of making many life changing decisions, I have been left asking myself, why me? Why have I been given so much and how is it that I believe in a God who I seek to live my life for, but when talking to others I am given responses such as, it is just not my thing. In living in a community where I see the harsh realities that many face daily, and working in a place where people struggle in many ways, I have been hit with several emotions. I think it is one thing to be aware of the natural brokenness of the world, but another when it is staring you right in the face. I see people begging on the street, people selling beverages in the heat, and others who look worn. So I sit here and wonder, how is God working in the brokenness of this world? I am reminded though, that during his time on earth Jesus faced much opposition and had times of wondering his purpose, also. Even in these difficult times, Jesus still saw a greater purpose for the work he was doing and made the decision to be in fellowship and eat with sinners, tax collectors, lepers, and many more. Not everyone agreed with him and even if they didn’t choose to accept the message he was preaching, God’s love was still present and unconditional, waiting to be accepted. I think that we then, as his people, are called to live and have conversations among others even when difficult.

I think God works through us by transforming us into his hands and feet in helping to do his work. We are to reach out and be an example of him to those in adverse conditions and those who do not see the love he has to offer. I am reminded of the almighty one who dwells within me and that I am not better than anyone else. I have been given so much so that I might be able to give to others. God works through me so that I might be able to show others all that God has to offer. I still struggle with many things I see and hear on a daily basis, but I know through my simple act of showing love and having God as the reason for what I say and do, I can be used for his work. God has a plan and I am his vessel. Just as he guides me, he guides others. As hard as it may be, I am reminded of God’s plan for my life and that his work in my life and in others is constant. When the Lord’s kingdom comes his work will be accomplished and his people will be gathered together in his eternal glory forever. That is the hope I live for and know as he prepares me and others for this glorious moment.

A Year in the HOPE House

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A reflection by HOPE House resident, Kevin Felisme

I can’t believe an entire year has gone by since I moved into the Hope House. I can honestly say that it has been one of the most thought provoking experiences of my life. I have wrestled with many different ideas around love, justice, and inequality. I have questioned why I am living in the Hope House and my purpose. What I will always carry with me from this experience is the importance of treating every single human being with love and compassion. And I really mean every single person. This includes family, friends, co-workers, people I might not like, and the people I walk by on the street. Every person in this world deserves both love and compassion no matter what they have done in their lives. The moment we realize that we are all interconnected and that our well-being is linked with each other is the moment we can realistically begin to pursue peace. Until then, we will continue to see our struggles as our own and fight selfishly for what we believe to be right or just. So it is very important that we understand this universal reality of the interconnected-ness of all humanity.

During this year I have come upon this truth through speaking with staff at the PORT and with members of the Hope House. Reading many different books has also brought me to this understanding and it has completely changed the way I interact with people and live my life. I really make an effort every single day to smile at every person I see that I walk pass and I do my best to give my time, love, and energy to people that I interact with. I pray and talk to God now daily as a source for my inspiration as it is something that keeps me connected to the bigger picture. Without this, I can easily get lost in the day to day things that life brings and forget to live each day with purpose and joy. I find that truly living this type of lifestyle takes a while to develop. Because there are still many days when I use the excuse that I did not have time to pray or when my selfish tendencies rule over my desire to give someone a moment of my time and to treat that person with the respect they deserve. I am humbled by the fact that this thing called life is a journey and not a race. I need time to develop these habits and to truly embody traits that for the most part are very counter cultural.

I continue to repeat a quote that I discovered during this year that is very much tied into my belief system. “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” This quote is from the 13th century Persian poet Rumi. I absolutely love this quote because I think that when you decide to move into a place like the Hope House or volunteer at the PORT Ministries there is often this mentality of what can I do to make a change. Often times the answer to this question is something that you will physically do to help out or assist others. I think this is a very beautiful approach to have, but I think it is even more beautiful to go even deeper than that. Anybody can take time out of their day and do an act of service to help others but I think it takes a very intentional individual to look deep within themselves to see how they can improve from within. Taking time to self-reflect and working to eliminate those behaviors that take away from the well-being of the rest of humanity is a process that will have a much larger impact. Imagine for just a moment living in a world where literally every single human being lived for others and not simply themselves. Imagine if every human being was genuinely concerned for the well-being of every person they interacted with on a day to day basis. I will be honest and say that I have a hard time envisioning this type of world myself, but I know that it would be much better then how we are currently living. Therefore, I will continue to work on myself knowing that it will only bring me closer to this possible reality.

This year has been very profound and I am grateful for this experience. I am grateful for all of the support I have received through the PORT and the Hope House, I am grateful for the young men that come to play basketball with me every Friday at the PORT, I am grateful for all my kind neighbors who take time to greet me whenever I see them, and I am grateful for this knowledge that I have gained that has transformed the way that I live out every single day.

 

Interested in learning more about living in the HOPE House? Email info@theportministries.org