Soul Food: Transformed by the Ignatian Service Corps

BY JAIME FORCE | October 18, 2017

Editor’s Note: Ignatian Service Corps is a post-graduate service program from Loyola Marymount University that joins young people together to serve for a year as full-time volunteers in Los Angeles. Volunteers respond to the call of social justice and partner with various agencies to work in marginalized communities. Volunteers seek to live out the Ignatian principles and work to create a more just society. The author of this piece, Jaime Force, is an ISC alumnus. 

This month marks a full year since I accepted a position with Ignatian Service Corps (ISC), packed my bags, and moved from my hometown of Bakersfield, CA (where I was working in the accounting department at a hydraulics and pneumatics shop) to work at Venice Family Clinic (VFC) as a Case Manager for a full year of service through ISC. Yesterday, I drove to an interview for a position as a Childcare Worker for a business called Global Family.

I was halfheartedly committed to the entire gig because I am working a well-paying day job, and if I did accept this offer it would be little money for long hours. I called a friend on the drive over and we laughed about how I would probably do fairly well in the interview since I wouldn’t be nervous. I arrived a few minutes early, put on my blazer, and walked up to the building’s entrance, knocking lightly.

A young girl, maybe 14-years-old, opened the door. Light brown hair had been shaved from the base of her neck to about the bottom of her ears; the rest was cut to about a fist’s length. She wore black basketball shorts and an oversized t-shirt with some logo or cartoon. There was not much that was especially extraordinary about her presence, aside from the fact that this girl was the face of Global Family. She is not the CEO or a board member; that building is her home.

“If she is here, what has she gone through? If she is here, there is a high possibility that she was abused, even raped. Maybe she is just in need of somewhere to stay,” I finally comforted myself.

[Global Family is in the business of “help[ing] as many children as possible who are victims of poverty, exploitation, and abuse by modeling and sharing principled methods that represent the best possible outcome.”]

I was led away from this young girl through a fairly plain building and into a surprisingly well-decorated room where my interview would take place. I sat down and began to make mental notes of how to present myself: smile confidently; talk slowly; showcase my education.

I was nervous because I had finally realized my desire to serve.

I realize my want to serve these girls and serve something other than and far greater than myself: God and whatever, or whoever, else that meant along the way. I realized that my thinking had rebooted into a 9-5 default mode in the months since I had concluded with Venice Family Clinic and the Ignatian Service Corps: clock in, clock out, wait for a paycheck; clock in, clock out, wait for a paycheck; clock in, clock out, wait for a paycheck…

Our careers are a huge chunk of our lives, and working at Venice Family Clinic through ISC was the first time I gave my career and all of the anxieties and stabilities surrounding it to God. And, it was the first time I missed my lunch break, stayed late most nights, joined groups that meant I’d work late every Tuesday for months without being asked or to try to impress the boss; I desired and chose to do them purely because I wanted to serve.

The way we think and the way that we live is what becomes our character—who we are. It perpetuates and creates the mockeries of humanity that we see splashed across the news, small and large, and what is the worst part is that we often passively become these people, little by little every day.

ISC members volunteering at the author’s (far left) placement site at Venice Family Clinic’s Art Walk, which helps to fund the clinic’s mission to provide quality primary health care to people in need.

Today’s world has done an abundantly great job of casting light into the shadows of our society and of speaking out against the wrong it sees. We now need to further our next steps by changing them from steps to simple reality by taking action as individuals who have chosen, in self-discipline, to fortify his and her strengths and then go on to form into the groups we see emerging, such as Ignatian Service Corps.

Ignatian Service Corps is a fairly new program. I was a part of the second-ever service year hosted by ISC, which is, at its core, a group composed of individuals who, at some point, chose to heed God’s will and join into a collective who fight for the underserved.

Rewind to the past year that I spent volunteering with ISC alongside seven other volunteers [who had chosen to] respond to the call of social justice and partner with various agencies to work in marginalized communities [while seeking] to live out the Ignatian principles and work to create a more just society,” ISC and our respective placements equipped us to be these individuals. Some change gradually, as with myself, while others are emboldened to change their lives immediately, as with one volunteer, Andrew, who applied to dental school after seeing the numerous smiles of those who came to his placement, St. Margaret’s Center, for food, but couldn’t eat what was served due to a lack of teeth, or another, Em, who threw herself into hunting down a job that gives back in a huge way, which This Bar Saves Lives definitely does.

ISC volunteers at a mid-year retreat.

During my year at VFC, I met countless versions of the girl who opened the door to the building: an old man who needed a friend to whom he could recount his life and feel valued by doing so, a hermit that needed a push toward self-care that began with being shown care by others, a teenager that needed someone to believe he had worth even though his parents didn’t. This year, I’ve chosen to work at Global Family as a childcare worker, where I will make an impact, for it is never whether or not an impact will be made, but whether or not we are willing to step through the door someone else has opened for you.

We may be young, but in God, we are wise. For it is the wise, not the seasoned, who are called to shape the world.

Leave your simple ways and you will live! Proverbs 9:6

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *