Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Use Your Words

I have really been captured by many ideas during my stay here in Chicago but storytelling has really encompassed almost all of the experiences I have had while being here. When one first gets to know any new place, one will typically run into new people and in order to learn about those people one typically shares words in those exchanges. My interactions have not strayed from that experience either because from the moment I walked into my house I met my new roomates who immediately told me about themselves and vis-a-versa. In most people's stories, especially my housemates, we shared where we are from, reasons for being a full time volunteer, and our interests. Since I was a little girl I was very inquisitive and always asked why. My ability to ask people random questions about people's lives was born from my experience as a child. My housemates actually know me for my random questions and expect them now. Over the summer, I worked with a mission trip's team traveling across the country and I was given the role of the cool aunt who asks many strange questions. One of my current housemates from Germany randomly told me I talk a lot and that he never met anyone who can talk as much as I can (which we still laugh about). I think that I do talk often and have the ability to listen as well.

In many of psychology classes the students were instructed how to actively listen as potential counselors or as a person interested in working in the field. We were taught to look at people's expressions, including micro expressions which could include the smallest change on someone's face, affect, body language, etc. I have used these skills in many settings in my life but most recently I have really acknowledged the usefulness of this activity. I have learned to listen to many of the stories of the guests here in the soup kitchen.  Many of the people I serve do not get many opportunities to be heard. Most of them are seen on the side of the street asking for help and most of them are ignored. However, I know these people better then anyone else I have met here in Chicago because I know their stories and they know some of mine. Most of them have many important things to say but no one to hear them out.

In my previous blog I shared that most of my conversations are around ideas about music or psychology. Yesterday I learned that one of the guest has a masters in music composition. We talked about the Pythagorean Coma, which he was very enthralled to do. Another guest is currently in college and is trying to get back on his feet. He just recently received housing and is really excited to cook at this new home. He talks about his struggles with his math class but also shares his excitement to learn. Another guest constantly has a new book in his hand and is always ready to discuss the plot and themes in the book and to talk about current events. He was also given housing, so I haven't seen him for about a month now.

There are times when I have been unable to respond to someone's comments which is something I have had to learn to just listen and not respond. For instance, some of the guests struggle with mental illness and are just talking to themselves and have not awareness of others around them. I have gotten many comments about racism in the South after I share with people I am from North Carolina. As well as comments about my gender and feminine beauty. At these times I know I have nothing to say that is going to change this person's mind so I decide not to say anything at all or to say that is not true or that is inappropriate.

Due to these interactions, I have had a difficult time conveying myself  or responding to people outside of the soup kitchen because my world view has changed. Conversation's are not as materialistic as they once were, rather an important quality that provides meaning to me and to the guests I serve on a daily basis. Most stories outside of the soup kitchen involve talking about people's careers or their things but inside the soup kitchen they are mostly about the reality of that person's life such as sickness or emotion. The people I serve are more real then any other human being I have ever met. They are willing to tell me about their brokenness within minutes of talking to me.

These stories are the truth of homelessness and poverty, which exemplifies the intelligence and reality of a human being despite their circumstances. Some in society would like to pin homelessness as an individual problem based on that person's short comings rather then truely getting to know the story of that person. These people are human beings who have words to say just as much as someone with a home. No one chooses homelessness or poverty, rather life circumstances cause problems for some more then others. These people all have individual stories, stories that show glimpses into humanity.

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