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Challenging Love

by Stephanie Morrow, Detroit, ’14 and ’15
Loyola University Chicago ’14
Corporate Work Study Assistant, Rosa Parks House

“We do not become fully human until we give ourselves to another in love. Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone—we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own safe and isolated meditations. The meaning of life has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love.”  -Thomas Merton

I said one too many goodbyes today. I came home, alone, to a house built for seven (sometimes eight) … and cried. The last day is the hardest day. It is a day I look back and question if the joys and struggles of being a Jesuit Volunteer were worth it. It is a day I realize my fears coming into the year are the same fears I have going out.  Finally, today, after many tears, long hugs, nostalgic banter, and a trip to Belle Isle I ask myself, how will I do it all again?

Change and transition is unavoidable. Friendship is fleeting. We move through life not knowing who we will meet or how they will impact our lives. If I take away one constant from my first JV year and from a life of transitions, it is LOVE. 

Early February was an unsettlingly difficult time in my life. Cortez Burrell, senior class clown at Detroit Cristo Rey, died tragically with his twelve-year old brother in a house fire and was survived by his sophomore twin sisters. That Monday morning, I stood before the senior class to break the news and send them immediately off to work. On top of heartbreak at my placement, my family placed my brother in a hospital; I was climbing back from an inevitable break up, fighting seasonal affect, I lost a new JV position in Chicago to budget cuts, and kept asking myself why the picture I painted last May of what JVC would be like wasn’t coming to life. I did not feel worthy of being loved and was not loving on others.

I did not have a sudden epiphany that changed my outlook, rather I drew inspiration from many moments, interactions, and individuals who loved me until I recognized and accepted it. The senior class held each other while they mourned and worked together to raise money for the Burrell family. I worked to see my family as they were, without forcing them to adhere to my beliefs and values regarding mental health. I forgave myself for my part in broken relationships, while letting go of that which I had no control. I brought self-care to the forefront, because at that time, I felt as though I was taking care of everyone else. I listened to several mix tapes and records that dropped this year. I thanked my community for their constant forgiveness and gleeful distractions. I made a choice to love. 

Thomas Merton is sort of an expert in the arena of love. His essays regarding loving relationships assert that love is a choice, love is work, love helps reveal that which is good, love heals, and that love manifests itself in many different ways. This year I am challenging love.

Love your new city.
Love on your community.
Love those whom you will work beside.
Love those who disagree.
Love those whom you cannot forgive.
Love the food.
Love yourself.
Challenging Love.         

“And genuine love is a personal revolution—it transforms our entire life. Real love takes your ideas, your desires, and your actions and welds them together in one experience and one living reality which is a new you.” -Thomas Merton