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.

Beyond
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.