Relationships—Can’t shake ‘em!
Josh Wise (CVV14) is a Louisiana native that joined CVV in the summer of 2008. He worked with Archdiocesan Housing and the Mary Lucy computer Lab & Neighborhood Network Center. He has stuck around Denver ever since. He is still wrestling some of the questions raised during his year of service, while serving on the CVV Board and planning his wedding for next fall.
When my CVV year was finished, I was hired as an Outreach Worker at the St. Francis Center. My job, in a nutshell, involved going out on the streets to connect with the individuals who were experiencing homelessness to assist with immediate needs, like providing socks, with the end goal of housing. While all those goals were tangible, in the end I was building relationships. Thomas Merton said “In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.” That theme has followed me throughout my life, but I don’t think I realized it until after my year as a volunteer was complete.
CVV set me down a path of deep internal struggles. I had to digest the fact that the individuals I was working with as an Outreach Worker and myself had very few differences. In that moment of provider and client, I could see an immense world of differences. However, if you begin to build a relationship and listen to how folks arrived at their current situations, you quickly realize how easily you could have been in their same situation. A young adult leaving abusive family life; a mentally-ill daughter whose parents felt they had become too old and tired to try and reel her in; a Vietnam veteran who came back to a world he didn’t understand anymore and when he lashed out he lost all his service benefits. The stories are so unique and different, but have similar low points– lack of relationship.
During my year as a volunteer, one idea I began to wrestle with, and one I continue to struggle with, is my own personal responsibility to the wider community. Growing up in the south challenged my view of personal responsibility by demonstrating two contrasting messages: The first was to ‘pick yourself up by your own bootstraps, there is nothing you can’t pray yourself out of. You will be taken care of if you love and follow the Lord.’ The second was a message of community–regardless of social standing. I was raised in the first message, but leaned towards the second.
St. Francis of Assisi is the patron Saint I chose for my Confirmation. St. Vincent de Paul, and even more specifically CVV, helped me to learn how to find the truth of the prayer of St. Francis and live it out. Living it out not only in profession, but also by way of the things in the world that I expel mental energy towards.
Local politics concerning marginalized communities would not have been an interest that I would have had ten years ago. Instead, I feel personally called to stay involved locally in some way, however small, to contribute to the larger well-being. I end with a favorite quote from Robert F. Kennedy that resonates: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”