First, a prayer…

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

(Pedro Arrupe, SJ)

It’s easy to fall in love at the Esperanza Center, especially in the ESL program (English as a Second Language). There are wonderful students who are unbelievably excited to come to class, little kids everywhere sitting beside their mom as she works with a tutor, volunteers who have dedicated years of their lives to being a part of this program, a passionate staff who has been incredibly welcoming and supportive, and beautiful moments of connection through service every day.

It’s easy to think of reasons to get out of the bed in the morning, but it’s more difficult to figure out what to do with the heartbreak that comes along with falling in love.  I’ve shared with Diana, my supervisor, how much I see a connection between the two here. I fall in love with the older woman from Nigeria who throws her hands in the air and yells “God is good!” when she does well on her first placement test and I fall in love with the little boy from Brazil who says goodbye to Diana and me by blowing kisses as he walks backward out the door. My heart breaks when I do intake for a student who has been in school for 20 years and is currently a taxi driver and it breaks when I hear how many hours a week one of our youngest students works.  As easy as it is to get up the morning thinking about all the people and things I’m in love with at the Esperanza Center, it’s hard at the end of the day to put down all the heartbreak that people have shared with me.

This question of what to do with heartbreak is really nothing new – not to me or to anyone who has worked with marginalized communities and has come face-to-face with social injustice. If anyone has the answer, please share. I personally have learned that if my default reaction is despair, all my energy is drained expressing that feeling instead of working to change what is breaking my heart. At this point, I’ve chosen to embrace heartbreak as a call to get more involved. What that looks like for me immediately is practicing my Spanish so that I can better communicate with many of our students. Also I’m getting to know the students better so that I can give their volunteer-teachers advice on what the students would like to work on. In the long run, I’m reflecting deeply on where I’d like to be next year, maybe finding a way to learn more about immigration law or the education system in the United States. I’ll keep you updated.