As my weeks come to an end at Cristo Rey, I see the children in a different light than I have before. Each time I visit the school and help the children with the knowledge that I have acquired over my years of privileged learning, I begin to see how different they are form me. Even though I also attended a Jesuit high school, my high school was filled with wealthy, fortunate, caucasian men who had the world in the palm of their hand. My school was smart and athletic. We were known as one of the most competitive high schools in the state. Cristo Rey is not like this. Cristo Rey is filled with children who are trying to escape. They have come from bad backgrounds and have been overlooked their entire lives. Like the many themes of this week’s readings, I see that sometimes your past can haunt you. However, it does not have to determine the overall outcome of what comes next.
In the Stephanie Shapiro’s article Serving Up Hope, she describes a small café that takes in people who have a bad past in order to correct their lives for the better. The Sampson family owns this restaurant and teaches past drug users and criminals how to cook. This gives them a fresh start in life and allows them to not worry about their past anymore. In just two years they can become a certified cook and are allowed to get a real job. The family uses the café as a way to make the world a better place. They turn criminals into cooks and allow them to live the remainder of their lives normally. The skills that they are taught in the kitchen are used to keep them out of trouble and focus the remainder of their lives doing something that can transition their lives from their bad past to a hopeful future. Much of the time, criminals have a hard time transitioning from prison back to real life, which usually influences them to revisit drug use. This café allows the transition to be smooth and helpful. The Sampson’s are truly doing the work of God.
In Gary Gildener’s poem First Practice, the coach is explaining to the team that the past does not determine the future. The coach checks on the team to make sure they were not “ruptured,” or have been broken from whatever came before. This poem is an inspiration to all who have overcome adversity in their lives. The team sees the men they will be winning the “title” with and this excites them to do what is necessary to win it all. The coach explains that winning is the only option, and you must treat your opponents like the person you hate most. I can relate to this feeling of hatred for someone you don’t know. In swimming, you are almost always racing against someone you do not know, and most times they are in the lane next to you. I would always treat them as if they were someone who had bullied me or hurt me in the past. I know this feeling of hatred and what it means to have winning as your only option.
In Richard Hague’s poem Directions for Resisting the SAT, he explains how the scores on some placement exam do not determine the outcome of your life. It is irrelevant in the grand scheme of life; the test doesn’t matter. He says in his poem, “Listen to no one. / Make your marks on everything.” This line is indicative of the entire poem. What he is saying is don’t let these scores haunt you; don’t listen to them and the marks that are left on the paper. Make your mark on the world by doing something worthwhile and prove that the SAT stands for just about nothing. He states the people should “Desire to live whole,” which is true and the only way people can accomplish this is to not let the scores of the SAT dictate the rest of their life. I wish someone had told me this when I was in high school. My teachers seemed to always place so much weight on the SAT that all my friends became obsessed with their scores. It was one big contest that I could never win.
“A Father” by Bharati Mukherjee, shows how difficult it is for people, especially foreigners, to rid themselves of their past when entering a new environment. It is hard for one to change their future alone. This is a story that proves that when your past dictates who other people see you as, it is hard to change your life. Without any help from the government or his family, Mr. Bhowmick struggled to obtain residency in America. This process was hard on his family who suffered greatly. The wife was always fighting and his daughter disgraced her family by impregnating herself through a sperm bank. The American life they wanted to live placed too much stress on his family and even his god Kali couldn’t help. Under this pressure, Mr. Bhowmick finally snapped one day, beating his daughter’s stomach in order to kill the baby she held inside her womb. This story proves how difficult it is to change your past if you don’t have any help form others.
The children of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School are not in any situation like Mr. Bhowmick. In other words, they have people helping them in their transition. Their teachers are always there for them and they have volunteers like myself who are more than willing to lend a hand. They will make it somewhere in their life because they have support. Mr. Bhowmick did not have this and that is why they snapped. The team that Gary Gildener’s poem First Practice talks about has support from the inspiring coach and their fellow teammates. The criminals and drug users of the Dogwood Deli have the support of the Sampson family. These children will escape their past and “Make their marks on everything” just like Richard Hague’s poem Directions for Resisting the SAT instructs. The people who are behind these students, including myself, care too much about them to see them fail and have dreams crushed. The will escape and succeed in whatever they wish to do with their life.