Y.N.I.A. Wisconsin July 2017
I really can’t remember just how many years it’s been since we first started hosting Young Neighbors in Action groups at the Little Store. It’s about 15 years. During that time Kathy and I have been constantly surprised and well pleased with the amount and quality of the work these young men and women accomplish.
For those of you who may not have heard about Young Neighbors in Action let me tell you a little bit about their style. Young men and women, usually high school sophomores from a Catholic Church and up, sign up to spend 6 to 10 days during their summer vacation travelling to another city working from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with other Catholic kids. They are sent to different hosting locations, some close to home and others very far from home. In our experience we have had groups from Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Northborough, MA to name a few.
We usually have groups of 10 or less. We line up the work for them before they arrive. The work consists painting, washing, moving, packing, unpacking, smashing and bashing, loading dumpsters, empting truck, painting fences, trimming brush, and power washing things, just to name a few.
One of this year’s groups was from Kaukauna, WI. The group from KauKauna arrived July 10, 2017 and left us on Friday July, 14, 2017. The group consisted of 2 leaders and 8 boys and girls.Their work included scraping and sanding the front outside wall of the store, taking down the wall between the LittleStore and the Just New! Store, relocating the counter in the store, and cutting back the brush. They accomplished everything except the cutting back of the brush, but they did do some smash and bash!
For our part we introduce them to the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope, its mission, work and people as well as the many different culturally diverse customers of the LittleStore. We usually do this over lunch and at the wrap up at the end of the work day. We try to stimulate a dialogue with them using questions like, “What did you see today or what did you hear today?” The questions come slowly on the first and second day, but by Friday the responses to the questions are enthusiastic. And as a result of this dialogue we both learn from each other and come to understand our different lives in light of the Gospel.
On Fridays we work until 1:00 p.m. and then clean up for our good-bye party. We have sandwiches, drinks, and cookies. And I get to ask them two questions, one, “What did you do this week that you never thought you would ever do?” And two, “What did you see you have never seen before?” It gets pretty emotional. Their answers are usually well thought out and just pop out of their mouths.
The groups have a ritual of leaving behind a memento of their visit. This year two of them were doing some smash and bash when they came across a broken crucifix lying on the pile of trash to be thrown out. They asked, “Can we keep this?” “Ok,” I said, “but I don’t want to here from your parents about you taking rubbish home.” We all laughed. But during the party one of them reached into his backpack and took a colorfully decorated crucifix that was signed by each of the team and labeled Y.N.I.A Kaukauna, WI, 2017. As I accepted their gift I could feel their eye on me just waiting for our reaction. Kathy and I both said at the same time, “It is beautiful!” And they all clapped and were smiling from ear to ear!
Everyone is flying because of the week we just experienced with each other, only with tears in their eyes because it is time to say good-bye. So with hugs and promises to stay in touch they depart and Kathy and I just stand there in awe of what the Lord had done of us once again.