Volunteer Name: Abby McDonough
Alma Mater: Kalamazoo College
Placement Site: Bon Secours Housing and Community Development in Baltimore, MD
Who has modeled being ‘good help to those in need’ in your life? Describe why you are inspired by this person.
My mom has been a model of ‘good help to those in need’. She has taught me about pushing yourself outside of your ‘comfort zone’ when it comes to interacting with people who have different life stories than you and how to treat everyone you meet with the dignity that they deserve. She models how to create meaningful relationships and is able to walk with and support people in their journeys and in their work to bring justice closer. For the past few years during the chilly winter months, my mom has spent her days off at the warming center for members of our community that are experiencing homelessness. In this space, she is able to meet the clients where they are, working to challenge the deep seeded biases that society has taught her about those who are experiencing homelessness and instead acknowledging their collective humanity and inner-connectedness. She has talked about how this has stretched her comfort zone and also has brought her into friendship with people who are organizing houses of hospitality and fighting against homelessness, and many of these friends have also experienced homelessness at some point in their life story. My mom has also shown me the importance of committing to the work of deconstructing biases that have been ingrained in us from the moment we are born. She has shown and taught me how it is my responsibility as a white, middle class person to read, listen and learn as much as I can about the systems of oppression in this country and my place in that system in order to interrogate why certain things are the way they are and how we might work collectively to change them.
What is your favorite song or book and why does it speak to you?
One of my favorite book is On Living by Kerry Egan. This book, for me, captures the essential essence of what it means to be human and to hold all of the complicated emotions that we experience throughout our lives. Egan, a hospice chaplain, compiles the things that her patients and patient’s family members and friends say as they are reflecting on what has happened in their lives or the life of their loved one who is dying. I connect with each chapter in such a deep way that often moves me to tears as Egan beautifully describes her patients. Through her stories we see patients who want to be loved or show love but find it difficult in their messy lives, we see people wrestling with the shame, fear, and regret they have. People who want to be seen for who they are. It is a story of what happens when someone is struggling to figure out what their life means as they are dying, but also about how Egan (and all of us) can make sense of our own lives too while we still have time to live.