What does it mean to a part of a community… to extend your family.
As I return back to Chicago ready to teach the 120 middle schoolers that await me, I sit filled with gratitude. I also sit missing my family. I miss my mom, dad, and brothers who I haven’t seen in a couple months. However, I also sit missing Maura, Luke, Jeanette, Tim, Andrea, the VVC community, and SVdP. I have just returned from the VVC alumni retreat in Cincinnati this past weekend where past and current members of VVC gathered together. We gathered to reflect on our experiences during and post VVC, to reground ourselves in our Vincentian roots, and to spend time in friendship with one another. My heart is very full.
Though each community is unique, we all shared the bond of the VVC experience. Whether, we were from the first-ever VVC community, a member of cohort 2, a year 3 alum, or a current VVCer, we share a bond of what it means to dedicate a year to an organization as outstanding as SVdP and to a community as dynamic, challenging, and life-giving as the West End. We can connect on what it means to reflect together each Tuesday, to venture down to the basement where the photos of “The Man’s” birthday still lie, to engage with neighbors along the way to and from work each day, to join in the laughter, friendship, and spirit of collaboration among all SVdP staff members, and to have Maura guide, mentor, help, and care for you in one of your biggest years of personal growth. We all share a bond no matter what year we completed VVC. Working at a place like St. Vincent de Paul, with a staff like SVdP’s, and in a neighborhood with neighbors like the ones who visit SVdP, gives you this gift.
So again, I say to be in community means to extend your family. I am a part of the VVC family in the broad sense, and I am a part of the VVC Year 3 family. Jeanette, Luke, Tim, and Andrea each have made an imprint on my life and are my family. As I sat around the table reflecting with them this past weekend on where we have been the past 7 months, I did not want time to end. I wanted to freeze that moment and get to stay in it. Looking around the table at each of them, laughing with them, sharing with them, giving and taking advice with/from them, and being present to them is being in a family. Yes, we bickered (well Luke and I bickered). Yes, Jeanette and Tim said a thousand movie and song quotes that went over Luke, Andrea, and my heads. Yes, we reminisced about the incredible meals we cooked last year. Yes, we sat on the couches in the VVC house talking until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. Even though it had been 7 months since we had been together, it was as if time never passed. We picked up right where we left off in August of 2015. Our year in VVC bonded us in ways that cannot be undone. I could not be more thankful for VVC and the people it has brought into my life. It has given me an extension to my family.
Kelsey McCarty, VVC 2014-15, teaches middle school kids at the Fuller School of Excellence in Chicago, IL. Affectionately coined “Ms. Carty” by the kids she student taught, we are sure her current students regard her with similar affection. Kelsey’s passion for justice and inclusion – especially in the classroom – stand as the foundation of who she is and how she lives her life.