An Urban Plunge Reflection

Over break, I got the incredible opportunity to participate in an Urban Plunge. My Urban Plunge was at My Brother’s Keeper in Easton, Massachusetts. Being the good Catholic school children we are, many of us have volunteered at organizations that help those in need. I can honestly say that this was the best organization I have ever worked with. Every day, I felt like I was truly making a difference.

The mission of My Brother’s Keeper is “to give the love and hope of Jesus Christ to those we serve.” And their mission is not just something posted on a plaque, it is something that they do every single day in their work and their every day lives. And they accomplish it.

My Brother’s Keeper does furniture deliveries in the morning and food deliveries in the afternoon. Meaning I got to fill a bare apartment with a couch, table, chairs, lamp, nightstand, wardrobe, and fully made bed. We turned a space into a home.

When we delivered food, it was not a few boxes of mac and cheese and cans of tomato soup, it was a full (and heavy) box of pastas, rice, cereals, bags of fresh produce, frozen poultry, bags of dairy, and fresh baked bread and cookies.

This organization goes the extra mile to allow the people they serve to feel the love and hope of God. I saw it in peoples’ eyes as they received the crib for the child that was about to burst out of their stomach or watched their daughter’s first bed be delivered. By entering into people’s homes, we entered onto their turf and served them; they were in charge not us, we were simply there to do as they needed.

I can’t really begin to tell you about every aspect of the experience I had because I can’t really put it all in words. So many of my judgments of those living in poverty were wiped away as I became fully immersed. My Brother’s Keeper does not ask any questions of those who ask for assistance - they simply serve. As Jim, the founder, said the people who cheat an organization like MBK are the ones who need the love and hope of Christ the most. During one of our deliveries as we walked away from our unlocked truck, I asked if anything had ever been stolen. The response was that it is rare, but when it does happen, the stealer made it harder on themselves because My Brother’s Keeper would have delivered it right to their front door if they had asked.

This organization reflects unconditional love that most of us forget to embrace. Yes, we think, "I am a good person I do service," but as Jim would ask us, do you know the name of a poor person? How can we say we are doing it right, if we just go in serve soup or donate clothes and then walk away and forget? We may have solved the problem for a brief moment, but giving hope, not material things is what truly makes a difference.

My Brother's Keeper Christmas Project

As a Notre Dame student, I had been in process of googling internships before my plunge. As I entered into my plunge, this all seemed silly. I was applying to work that I really didn't know about. When people used to ask me what I wanted to do, my answer was I really don’t know I just want to help people.

Somehow along the way I lost this.

I had been swallowed in our fast pace environment of let’s do the best possible thing that makes the most money. How many of us want to be doctors, CEOs, and inventors? Nursing, PA school isn’t good enough for us? How many theater or art majors do you know? When someone says they want to be a teacher, we grimace. But why? Why have we become so caught up in the jobs that will make people "ooo and ahh" and provide us with the biggest houses?

The president of My Brother’s Keeper is an ND alumni. Every day he is working to serve those in southeastern Massachusetts who have nothing. He is giving hope so that people believe in the beauty of life and have the power to try and improve upon their situation. Yet his name isn’t on a building at Notre Dame. He won’t be able to sit in one of the new fancy press boxes because working for a non-profit company doesn’t pay salaries like that.

As a Notre Dame student, this intrigued me. I can tell you that none of my friends say that they want to go work for a non-profit. As I thought about that I realized, if the greatest Catholic school in the country doesn’t have people who want to do this, who is going to do it?

All my ideas of my future were really challenged by my plunge. For the first time the idea of finding something that really fulfilled me was thrown into my face. Then of course the questions follow - would it be fair to my parents after all their hard work? Would I be able to live a life where I could give my kids all the opportunities I had? What about all the money and work that I put into Notre Dame?

In the end, I came to the conclusion of a happy-medium: I need to go back every once in awhile to my little kid self that just wanted to help people. If that is not in the job or internship description I am looking at or somewhere in the mission statement of the companies I am googling, then I shouldn’t apply because I will not be doing what I should be doing. I will not be fulfilled in the slightest.

We are at a prestigious university so we are expected to be the best of the best. But think of the people you know and the community and kindness and personality of Notre Dame too. Think of all the good people we have at our school. Making the most money isn’t the only way to be the best of the best and I think we forget that sometimes. We give so much recognition to those who make the most and are able to give millions of dollars to the university, but what about those people like the president of My Brother’s Keeper who is giving his time and giving back each and every day to make society a better place. People like him are also the best of the best just in a different way.

If you have the chance to go on an Urban Plunge, do it! Or if you are so inspired, check out the spring break Appalachia trip (I haven’t been on one yet, but know they are fantastic). It may seem like it’s cutting into sleeping time, but trips like these are a different kind of you time that you probably do not give yourself otherwise. Also if you ever happen to be in Southeastern Massachusett,s go stop by My Brother’s Keeper to meet the greatest people you can find. 

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Images provided by author and found on My Brother's Keeper website which you should check out here!