It’s 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning, and I’m locking the front door and setting off on my way to work for the week. My one mile commute to work has been a constant throughout my time as a JV. I have made this walk over 100 times in the past months, and it is one of my favorite parts of my day.
As I walk, I pass other people making their morning commutes to the subway (or as it’s known in Boston, the “T”), waiting at the bus stop, and groups of children playing while they wait for the school bus to arrive. I hear snatches of different languages, mostly Spanish and French Creole along the way. I have made this walk so many times, that I often recognize the same faces day after day. The people are my favorite part of my walk, especially saying hello to the children I work with in the afternoons.
There is much that I notice now that I didn’t the first day I made this walk in August–much that I know about now that I didn’t then: the notoriously violent housing projects just down the street, the small shrine of cheap candles in front of the house where a double homicide occurred last spring, and the men hanging out in front of the liquor store.
I have also seen change–the new house being built up the streets, the leaves changing colors and falling (and hopefully returning again soon), and properties that have now been abandoned.
My commute also makes me aware of my own privilege: I choose to walk, even though a monthly bus pass is included in my stipend, but I know that for many of the individuals whom I work with, walking is not a choice; it is a necessity for those who cannot afford the cost of the bus.
My walk is twenty minutes of the day that are my time to reflect, to prepare for the day, and sometimes to give myself pep talks. On my best days (and sometimes my worst), they involve some of the most honest prayers I have ever uttered.
My work isn’t easy. My main responsibility is coordinating an After School program for 15 neighborhood children, and they make me laugh, break my heart, and worry me to no end–all in the course of one afternoon. They come from a variety of backgrounds and family situations–single parent households, homes with a history of domestic violence, stable and loving families–but most have parents that are recent immigrants. My students struggle with school, don’t like reading, and consistently receive low marks on their report cards.
And at the end of the day, as I prepare to leave to head home, it’s the faces I go back to–the stories that have etched themselves so deeply into my consciousness over these past months.
I’m so grateful for them. And I’m so grateful for this walk that reminds me of why I am here and keeps me humble, day after day, mile after mile.