This semester, I have come to appreciate CBL through a lack of it. I’m participating in the New York City semester program, and being away from Holy Cross, I had to put my CBL commitments on hold.
I came to the city with every intention of continuing community engagement. I even found an organization, Free Arts New York City, which I hoped to volunteer with during my free time here. Then life got in the way. I realized that a full time internship, a class, and a capstone paper were going to take up more time than I thought they would. Free Arts NYC was also looking for more long-term volunteers, so there went my community engagement plans.
Before coming to New York, I thought that immersion with all sorts of people would be inevitable. And it is, to some degree. You’re often confined to a subway car with 20 or 30 strangers, many of whom are different than you. That said, people rarely talk, and subway rides are pretty short in the grand scheme of things.
I’m also living in Brooklyn Heights. It’s absolutely beautiful, and only about a five minute walk from the Brooklyn Bridge. That said, it’s also incredibly homogenous. It’s a predominantly white, affluent neighborhood. Between my neighborhood and my job at Hearst tower, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity to meet and learn from people who have vastly different experiences of New York City.
This weekend, I was reminded of that. I ordered an Uber home from La Guardia airport, and my driver was a middle aged, cheery Bangladeshi man named Mohhamad. He asked me how long my flight was, and told me that it takes a 24 hour flight to get to his home country. He told me that he works nights, and sleeps from 5am to 2pm. Mohhamad explained that for him, driving for Uber is a dream compared to the jobs he had to work when he first arrived in New York City 2 years ago. Then, he went on to tell me all about Bangladeshi food and insisted that I try some, just like he tried pizza when he came here.
When I got out of the car, I realized I was beaming. My interesting conversation with Mohhamad had sparked my love of connection across difference, which hadn’t been ignited in a while. As I reflected on it, I realized that I’ve been missing out on a lot of joy this semester by not participating in CBL or community engagement. My ride with Mohammad reminded me how much I enjoy connecting with people and learning about experiences that are different from mine.
By not having CBL this semester, I’ve definitely gained a new appreciation for it. I’ve realized my life is so much richer, and I feel more fulfilled when I’m building relationships with people who I might not necessarily meet in my day to day life. As the semester comes to a close, I’m eager to get back to the Worcester community and most importantly, my CBL friend Sister Marie at St. Mary.