Loving Salinas

breadbox2I knew this year’s spring break trip would be a different experience for me than past trips. I was the primary organizer and connection for this trip, and then there was the small fact that we were bringing students to our hometown.

I knew the responsibilities would look different, and certainly the texture of the trip would feel different as well.

However, I was not prepared for how all of this would affect me emotionally. Turns out the week was a profoundly moving experience.

I challenged our students at the beginning of the week to take up three postures: that of a learner, a servant, and a teammate. They more than rose to the occasion.

As learners they asked good questions, got to know many of the people doing great work in Salinas, and demonstrated a ton of respect to our partners.

As servants they did any and every task that was asked of them, always with a happy heart.

As teammates they looked out for each other and got to know each other better by participating in meaningful activity together.

Three things really moved me about the way this group took up these challenges. First, the Mexican culture permeates Salinas, especially on the east side where we did most of our work. Mexican heritage is part of Amy’s story, and now our story, and even for a gringo like me, there’s been a lot of wrestling over the years with the divisions in our home community.

I’ll never forget spending summers working in the fields with the county and watching people treat my partner, Teo, with an incredible amount of disrespect, until they found out he actually was my boss. The harsh truth is that Mexican-Americans, and Mexican immigrants, don’t always get much respect in Salinas, but our students treated everyone they encountered with a great deal of respect, which meant a lot to me (and to the people we worked alongside during the week).

Second, when I was teaching in the Salinas school district (2002-2006) I grew to love the kids growing up on the east side. To watch our students love on and care for this next generation of Salinas youth brought me to tears on a daily basis.

Third, our students also loved our families really well. It was kind of surreal to sit in my mother-in-law’s backyard, and in my parent’s garage, with 20 people from Boston. Talk about world’s colliding. But, it was also beautiful to allow our family to extend hospitality to the student’s we’ve been investing in for the past couple years and then to see our students reciprocate with more great questions, and conversations, and thank you’s, and smiles.

So, thank you Boston friends for loving Salinas well, and for all that means for me and my family.


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