Servant to Served

Elizabeth

By Elizabeth McNulty, FC 20

There were a few different expectations I had when beginning my FrancisCorps experience back in August. I was thinking I would make some new friends, give of myself, get closer to God, etc. One thing that I certainly didn’t see coming, however, was that I would fall in love. Now, I know what you are thinking. Who’s the guy? How did you meet? But the trick is, I didn’t fall for one guy, I fell for 20 little guys who begged me to play basketball with them every day from 2-5p.m. One time we even raised the stakes and made a bet that the loser had to buy the winner lunch. Needless to say, I was out $12.99 that day and was lovingly given the nickname “trash” by a group of elementary schoolers. I was trying to teach them to respect me though, so by the end of the week I graduated to “Ms. Trash” on the court. Mission accomplished. I fell for 20 more little angels with new braids in their hair every week, who showered me with love every single day. Unlike their male counterparts’ clever nickname for me, to them I was “Princess Elizabeth” who had hair that was long and flowy.

I remember walking into the gym at Bishop Foery Foundation back in August and witnessing a scene of total and utter chaos. 30 elementary and middle school aged children from the Southside of Syracuse running around all over the place, bouncing off the walls, and somehow all of them were talking at the same time? Hair pulling, hitting, biting, screaming. I thought to myself, what on earth am I going to do with these kids. Now, flash forward to present day, and I find myself wondering what on earth I am going to do without them.

Now this story took a tragic turn when I got a call that Bishop Foery Foundation had lost its funding. I was told to say goodbye to the kids, let them know they had to find somewhere else to go after school, and clean out my desk. That was that. These relationships that I had spent the past four months building up and nurturing, were suddenly ripped out from under me. I was devastated. I thought about what exactly I would have to say goodbye to. I would no longer get to sit with Daja and Kiara and hear about the trials and tribulations of romance in the 6th grade. I would no longer get my hourly hugs from Katie and Jessica. Chris wouldn’t be able to assure me about how he was gonna “beat up” anyone that messed with his little brother. Jack and Carmen wouldn’t be able to get frustrated trying to teach me the ins and outs of Minecraft for the hundredth time. I wouldn’t be able to sneak Jon extra snack because who can resist that face? I realize how small and insignificant some of these encounters sound, but each of them was something I looked forward to every day. When my feet hit the floor each morning, it was the precious faces of the tiny humans I had come to know so well that came to my mind. Their big sloppy smiles made me want to do anything in my power to make earth a little bit more like heaven for them.

I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but as much as the kids needed me for certain things (supervision, snacks, hair-braiding, homework, etc.), it turned out that I needed them right back. They were helping to slowly mend some of the bruises and holes in my own heart with their love. And the best part is I didn’t need to do anything to earn this love! I didn’t need to wear certain clothes, act a certain way, change my looks or personality; all things I had done in the past to gain the wrong kind of love. To them, I just had to show up. I had to be present. I had to live, and breathe, and just be Elizabeth McNulty, and they loved me! I experienced a love of and from these kids that made me know exactly who I am. Which is someone who is WORTHY. OF. LOVE. Worthy of their love, worthy of love from others, worthy of love from the Father Himself. Having been through some weighty trials and tribulations of my own in recent years, this is a concept that I had really lost sight of. Who would have thought that 40 little kids in a tiny building on the Southside of Syracuse would be the ones to remind me of this necessary concept?

I truly believe that these kids showed me the secret to happiness, which is that in order to gain your own happiness, you must help others towards their own happiness. This worked as a two-way street at Bishop Foery Foundation, a place whose occupants will remain close to my heart forever. While I am still struggling with the loss of these friends from my day to day life, I can’t help but remain eternally grateful for the experience of a lifetime, something I would not change for the world. I now look, with an incredibly full and hopeful heart, to the next big adventure for me here in Syracuse, which will be working as an adult advocate through Elderly Services with Catholic Charities. While I will now be working on the complete opposite end of the age spectrum in this new ministry, you can bet that I will be taking the love and memories of my tiny, unlikely friends along with me.

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Enjoying The Little Moments

Jenny Rose

By Jenny Rose Anacan, FC 20

Every morning I never fail to do my daily devotionals and pray before heading out to Vincent House. My daily devotionals consist of reading the scriptures for the day along with a reflection on blessedisshe.net and devotions from the book Jesus is Calling. In my morning prayer, I thank our heavenly Father for a new day and ask him for strength and wisdom to help me throughout my day. At Vincent House, which is run by the Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, I work for the after school program. I serve a population of inner-city youth from kindergarten to the age of twelve who come from low-income families of the West Side of Syracuse. Daily, Vincent House serves a minimum of 11 to a maximum of 25 youth. No matter the amount of youth who walk in for program for the day, there is never a dull moment, the youth at Vincent House are such a light to my life as they are filled with so much love!

The first half of my day is pretty much the same. I come in at 10 in the morning and do some administrative work like checking my email and recording attendance. I do lots of planning for in-center activities like arts and crafts or food art and mini field trips. So far we have gone pumpkin picking, watched Incredibles 2 at Hollywood Theatre, the middle school youth went to a Halloween event at Syracuse University, and when it was warm out the younger youth went to different parks around Syracuse. Every other Monday, I go snack shopping with a coworker at BJ’s Wholesale Club to buy and deliver snacks for the youth of Vincent House and another after school program as well as a pre-school site. On a month to month basis I analyze the attendance records to determine the amount of days each child came to program, the average attendance, the lowest and highest attendance number, and the amount of children who came to program at least fifty percent of the time. I also analyze the snack record to determine how many snacks were serve in the given month. From time to time I will do other miscellaneous tasks like organizing and cleaning, washing the blankets and dress up clothes the kids use, sharpening colored pencils and many other things to maintain the center kept and going to run at its fullest potential when the kids come in after school.

The second half of my day is a completely different story than my first half, the after school program is open! Now this time is never consistent, every day is a different day and I never know what I will come across. Well, let me take that back, Mondays are usually the same, Movie Mondays with popcorn and we have a therapy dog name Molly from Paws of CNY come to Vincent House to hang out with the kids. Even if Mondays have the same activity, it can still be different in its own way. We are open immediately after the neighborhood schools are dismissed. There are children who come in as early as 2:05 PM, and we stay open until 5:30 PM. Our children walk, catch the school bus, or get dropped off by car to get to Vincent House. During the first half of program is free play in the living room as the first batch of children wait for more of their friends to come in. The children have so many options during free play: they can color, draw, play various games, build things, play pool, or simply come up with their own game or sit and hang out with their friends. At this time, I may help some with homework or play a game with the children! We love to play UNO, Chutes and Ladder, Connect Four, Candy Land, and more! One of the best things about playing win or lose games is teaching the kids that it is okay to lose and helping them build a sense of sportsmanship. Once majority of the kids show up to program, it is snack time. After snacks, we have several options for the kids. On some days there are scheduled activities, during the warmer days we will go outside to play on the playground, swing on swings, run around, or the older boys love to play basketball. When we can’t go outside they can play in the gym, there is a basketball hoop in there; our recreation room with a foosball table, basketball arcade game, or air hockey; or go back in the living room for more free play–the options are endless.

One of my favorite moments is when I am in the gym with the younger kids and when I get “pulled” in different directions. There can be a couple of kids who want to play a game of basketball with me, and so I do, then 30 seconds later I can start hearing someone crying because of the “she/he is not sharing” story, so I’ll have to help solve that, at the same time, there can be someone who gets hurt, so I’ll have to administer first-aid, and during all this I’ll have others saying “Ms. Jenny let’s play catch!” This actually can happen quite often. Despite all the hecticness, these kids keep me on my toes, I love it so much! I want to share one final story, and one that I will never ever forget. One day I was describing to a few kids that I am from Hawai’i, and so they started asking me many other questions. A little girl, in the cutest voice ever goes “So Ms. Jenny, you caught the plane to come here?” and I replied “Yes I did, a huge one!” At this time I am thinking the kids must just be so amazed I rode on the plane because they probably have not been on a plane yet. Then all of a sudden another kid goes “Wait! You catch the plane to come to work every day? Do you sleep here too when you wait for us?” My heart melted so much for these kids, and all I could do was laugh so hard.

I have only been in Syracuse serving these kids for about five months now and I am definitely not looking forward to day I will have to say my goodbyes to the little hearts I have learned to love. In the meantime, I will enjoy every moment God has given me with these kids; so far serving at Vincent House has been a tremendous blessing!