Editor’s Note: DCSC volunteer Domonique Thompson reflects on her time serving within the Father McKenna Center. She embraces all that she has learned and plans to carry it with her throughout her mission in Bolivia later this year. 

This was the year that I never wanted and never thought that I would need. There is nothing like God’s timing. 

In my own timeline, I would’ve gone on a mission this past September, but with the way things worked out, I will be going approximately a year later. God has a funny way of working for your greater good. I can honestly say now that I can’t imagine myself anywhere else during this time. I feel like as lay people we are constantly questioned as to why we are doing service for a year or more after college. But honestly there is a value in what we are doing that is too hard to explain simply through words. 

As a black person deeply connected to my Caribbean roots, being here at the Father McKenna Center has allowed for me to understand the life that is living and growing up as an African American person in America. It is hard to explain to someone not in the black experience but it was a side that I myself had been shielded from. By being here it has introduced me to the good, the bad, and the ugly of what has been done to our communities. We are now here seeing the aftermath.

 Being here has also allowed me to understand that the requirements of  homelessness do not fall into one singular box; instead it is a wide spectrum of different areas and circumstances that can provide the atmosphere for any person to be homeless. Anything can happen to anyone. One experience that I would like to share is that of Anthony Jenkins (Name changed for privacy purposes). He was in school studying to get his masters in Biochemistry and surprisingly he was not able to continue because of COVID. He was let go during the epidemic and because of that he was no longer able to pay for school and the dormitory he lived in. With no close family or friends to turn to in his time of crisis he ended up homeless. This is just one example of how this can happen to all of us. 

I feel like for so long I was chasing the want and the desire to be abroad, forgetting that even though we are a “first world country,” we are also in a state of emergency. This country has failed people experiencing  homelessness, addiction, and mental illness for so long. Just at the Father McKenna Center we face and address all of these issues and so much more that aid into feeding the lifestyle many of our men are living. This experience here has reminded me of these realities. When you live your life in a bubble, you fail to see the realities of this world and I truly believe that in seeing those true realities is where you find God. And the true meaning of love and compassion. The men here have shown such compassion towards me and to one another. I find it really beautiful to see the men lower their guards as they come into this space. To see the companionship that they share with one another as they open up. It creates both companionship and community. With COVID, I didn’t think I’d be able to see that in my time here but I have. 

As good-natured people, it is in our nature to help. It can be so easy to just give free handouts because we think it is the right thing to do; In the end it only makes us feel good about ourselves. But, the Father McKenna Center has taught me about how that could be more harmful than it is helpful. It does not benefit the community as a whole and can create an unhealthy sense of dependency. Now instead I find other ways to be helpful and ask myself if in this moment “Is my interaction helpful or harmful?” 

Even though I still plan on going abroad as an Overseas Lay Missioner, I truly believe that through this year, I am going with a new set of eyes. 

Reflection: In what ways has God called you to look deeper, to see your life with fresh eyes? How has God’s timing brought you new or resurfaced discoveries?