The beauty of presence: my M.A.P. experience
By Jessie Bazan, communication junior
During spring break, 183 Marquette students traveled to 19 different sites around the United States as part of Campus Ministry's Marquette Action Program. Junior Jessie Bazan spent the week at the Father McKenna Center in Washington D.C., a daytime drop-in center serving some of the city's homeless men, with 10 fellow classmates. Bazan shares her M.A.P. experience with Marquette Magazine.
Last week, I met a man I'll call Mr. Q. He's a 62-year-old Washingtonian with a grandfatherly smile and a voice perfect for smooth jazz radio. He sleeps in a storage locker at night because wind and snow can't get to him there. Mr. Q is a published poet whose old soul pens profound works about things like love, manhood and angels. He drops by the Fr. McKenna Center so he doesn't start out his day hungry. On Friday, Mr. Q walked up to me and said: "Young lady, I know there's a God. Let me tell you why." Forty-five minutes later, I knew it, too.
I'll admit, I began this M.A.P. journey with many worries. Can I relate to the men? What will we talk about? Is our group even needed here?
I left Saturday morning with resolve. I could relate to the men because I have two arms, a mouth and a brain, just like they do. I have childhood memories, current frustrations and future goals, just like they do. We talked about faith, Big East basketball, Saturday Night Live and whatever else came to mind because we actually have quite a bit in common. We are actually not all that different.
Was our group needed? No. The Fr. McKenna Center has gotten by for 30 years without Marquette spring breakers. But we needed to be there. My 10 new friends and I needed to sleep on hard church pews and not shower daily and wonder how we ever got so lucky. We can't pretend to comprehend the lives of these men after one week. But, now, we can be more aware of their beauty. We can acknowledge their dignity. And we can more genuinely work to better the day-to-day realities of the poor. After all, we have beds to sleep on. Shouldn't everyone?
This M.A.P. trip was about being uncomfortable in order to get comfortable with reality. It was about sharing laughs and breaking biases and shedding invisibility. This week was most simply about being present with fellow human beings who might not look or live like me but are intrinsically the same. Homelessness is a state, not a defining characteristic. The men at the Fr. McKenna Center showed me there is more than one way to define "rich."
"Life-changing" is an overused cliché. But when it's true, it's true. This experience changed my life. For our M.A.P. journey, and for all the wonderful conversations, lessons and memories of this week, I am forever grateful.