• Good News: A VISION trip poem explores truth and compassion

    This is a reprint of “Good News,” the weekly reflection written by Campus Ministry staff and students that is distributed at Sunday Masses at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas.

    By Jesse Rosel, who participated in a VISION trip to Florida last spring. VISION (Volunteers In Service Internationally Or Nationally) will have an information session on January Term service trips at noon Tuesday, Oct. 12, in Room 304, Murray-Herrick Campus Center. Application day is Wednesday, Oct. 13.

    VISION Trip

    Late March.
    You begin in a van
    at some parking lot
    in Minnesota, jam
    your one duffle bag
    full of old T-shirts
    and jeans, and you feel
    dignified at your own
    fabricated paucity.
    In truth, you
    are going to offer
    your charity in Florida
    because you had no money
    to drink in Mexico.
    In truth, you have never
    seen the face of poverty
    and are now wondering
    how firmly the children’s
    expressions will be imbedded
    in your mind.

    In truth
    I say “you,” but we both
    know that I mean me, and now
    we drive down Highway 31
    on the outskirts of Birmingham.
    Robert Johnson’s voice
    inhabits the static
    grumble of the speakers.
    It is 4:27 a.m.
    In half a day we will
    be playing with kids
    who have no dads. They will
    worship our kneecaps
    because we play kickball
    with them during their morning
    gym time. We will hula-hoop
    for them in the afternoon
    and first graders will laugh
    at our bungling movements
    until plastic rattles on
    the dry playground pavement
    and it is time for them
    to go. They will grab
    us by the wrist and point
    the way home, but all we can say
    is not today, though what we
    really mean is
    not ever.

    your window, dew
    and fog still linger above
    the emerging grass,
    below the naked trees.
    The van heads deeper
    south toward the coastal
    plains. A bone-colored dawn
    is about to lift
    the heavy mask off
    of the night.

    You tell
    yourself the trip
    is about offering your charity,
    it’s about facing poverty
    with courage, it’s about compassion.
    But your real fear
    is that compassion is not
    temporary, that it cannot
    be forgotten, it cannot be washed
    out of your clothes when you return
    or slept off like the hangover
    you would have had. You fear
    that compassion cannot
    be discarded the way
    the day will discard
    the dew and fog outside your
    window, seared away by the sun.
    Your true fear, then,
    is that everything
    will be obvious,
    everything will be
    painfully clear.