Jesuit Volunteer Reflects: Tying a Shoe. Doing Justice.

tying-shoesBY ANDY DEVIVOJune 10, 2014

Tying a shoe. Pulling up the sleeves of a first graders’ jacket. Placing a sticker on a perfect homework. Learning about rap artists of the 1980s and early 90s. Playing tag with sixth graders. Deep breaths. Smiles. Silly dance moves. Weird jokes. Baked Goods. All of that and a lot more would be my answer if you asked me the question, “What does doing justice at your Jesuit Volunteer Corps worksite mean to you?”

“Doing Justice” is one of the JVC’s pillars and in the JVC International covenant there are five distinct points that describe the pillar. The points are very broad and in that way they encompass all kind of work that Jesuit Volunteers do. These jobs can include everything from working at a homeless shelter to working in a downtown Jesuit office building to being a full-time teacher. Therefore, it my understanding, that each volunteer has the responsibility to use the points and self-reflection to establish a more specific definition of the term “doing justice.”

When I arrived in Chile in December of 2012 and even as recent as October 2013 I would have answered the above question differently. As a teacher in a low resource school in a poor area of Santiago, Chile, I would have said, “To me, doing justice means giving my students the highest quality English education so that they can go to college and make their lives better.” That’s it. Now, a few months later and well into my second year as a Jesuit Volunteer in Chile I am still very concerned with providing the highest level of English education for my students, but I do not see it as the only way I am doing justice.

For myself, the question was always, “what can I do to provide my students the opportunities they need to empower themselves break out of the poverty the surrounds them.” For some of my 160 students (maybe 3) that might be English, but for the rest, I have come to learn, what they really need is cariño, or simply love. A lot of my students come from single family households. Their parents work long hours and what they are lacking more often than not in their lives is someone who shows them the dignity they deserve as children in our world and as children of God. They often just want and need someone to listen to them.

And so as tired as I am sometimes, I have learned that I need to remember every little action counts. Every smile, every high five, every shoe tied, every minute I spend researching rap artists so I can converse my students favorite topics with them. Every day I show up and am there to teach my students with energy and enthusiasm. Doing all of these things shows my students the love and affection that I have for them. And, for me, doing all of these things is doing justice.

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