My favorite thing in the world is exploring different cities. Everywhere I go, there are things that surprise me, sadden me, and make me happy. Although it has been different experiences throughout, this trip to East Los Angeles has been no different.
I would just like to give everyone a little taste of the different feelings, so first, I will start with some of the things that have saddened me. The big things are the violence and the homeless people in and around Los Angeles. Although there isn’t as much violence as there was about 20-30 years ago, it is still very prevalent in this culture. Hearing that the people around East LA are afraid of going outside at night sometimes is just a sad realization for me. I can’t imagine not being able to leave my house at night because of the fear of being the victim of violence. Seeing tents lined up for blocks was also a very sad sight. I had the privilege of talking to a few homeless people, and it was so inspiring how much hope and love for God they have even though they are in one of the worst situations. As we were at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, I was praying with Saint Vibiana, who was a martyr and is the patroness Saint of Los Angeles. This is her prayer, and I invite you to pray if you want to: “O God, the giver of all good gifts, in Your servant Vibiana You joined the flower of virginity with the palm of martyrdom; be pleased, by her intercession, to join our souls by charity to You, so that all dangers being removed, we may obtain our eternal reward. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. Saint Vibiana, pray for the city of Los Angeles!”
Something that has surprised me on this trip is, as I mentioned before, how much hope and love the people who are in the most need have. Going to Homeboy Industries and hearing some stories of former gang members or stories and thoughts from the homeless was very empowering. For the gang members, even though they could have been comfortable and kept on living life how they were, they realized that there was something better out there for them and wanted to change. It is always beautiful to hear stories of this type of change. I realized that some of these people are probably the most faithful and hope filled people I have ever met and I’m so thankful to have been able to talk to them.
Some things that have made me happy are seeing how many organizations are helping to combat homelessness and violence. We were fortunate enough to get a tour of Homeboy industries, an organization that gives jobs and other opportunities to former gang members, inmates, and others. There are also places such as the Union Rescue Mission, a place that provides food to homeless and has a rehabilitation program among other things. Another thing that makes me happy is the general aesthetic of California. There is beauty everywhere, from the Dolores Mission School where we worked with amazing children, to the former gang members who turned their lives around, to the three dolphins that we saw and thought were sharks today at the beach.
This experience has given me the drive to be altruistic and kind towards everyone I meet and be thankful for everything I have. Furthermore, to really get to know someone before judging them, because you never know what kind of battles they are facing. So now, a call to action for you: just stop and listen to a stranger’s story once in awhile- you never know what you’ll learn.