By Hugh Burke
When I take a look at my first few months at Taller de José, a few things certainly stand out. To begin, I was nervous about moving to a new place. While I had attended college nearby in Northwest Indiana, I wasn’t sure how I would react to living in such a vibrant urban environment like Chicago. This major geographic change, along with disruptions in the everyday routine of all Americans due to COVID-19, certainly made for an interesting service year with Taller de José.
In the face of all of this uncertainty, I was scared. However, I remembered the principle reason in my decision to do a service year in the first place. Perspective. It was perspective that I sought, as it has been differing opinions, cultures, and religions that have ultimately molded the composition of my character as a young man trying to find his own way in our world. As I reflected on this, I chuckled to myself. If I couldn’t find perspective in these unprecedented times living in a new city, when could I?
With this in mind, I embraced the unknown of the service year to come with Taller de José. From our day one Zoom meeting, I knew that I would encounter things I had never seen before. Especially living within the Little Village community, I would bear witness to issues and successes taking place in my own backyard. I strongly believe that this has been and will continue to be an inspiration to me as I move forward with Taller de José.
While I still desire to gain perspective through my work at Taller de José, I believe that my decisions outside of the service work have played just as large of a role as the work itself. In the field of healthcare, medical professionals are often called to think about the “social determinants of health”, otherwise known as barriers to healthcare. I’ve realized in my time at Taller de José that this concept should not be compartmentalized to healthcare only. From outside service, education sessions, and other mediums, I’ve learned about food insecurity, domestic violence, state and federal public benefit access, and more. In conjunction with social circumstances like the pandemic, I’ve learned of the synergistic effects these issues can often take in addressing the needs of Taller de José clientele.
Due to these circumstances, the most life-giving part of my job as a Taller de José Compañero undoubtedly has been aiding in rental bill assistance. I believe that I have come to truly enjoy this work because it addresses many of the needs I’ve listed above. All human beings deserve basic rights. The right to housing certainly falls under this category and can be a crucial first step in resolving other needs. I am proud of Taller de José’s response to the pandemic in working to help those in need of rental assistance and I look forward to our future work concerning these critical matters.
I’d like to close with a reference to one of the very first jokes I learned as a kid.
“Why’d the chicken cross the road?”
“To get to the other side”
I, like many other kids, didn’t know whether I should be disappointed or laugh at this joke at first. Nevertheless, I think it’s a great metaphor for my time crossing the road as a Compañero with Taller de José. More often than not, the road that I walk looks different than my fellow Compañerx or those who we serve. The perspectives we get on our respective roads matter. Our stories matter. What I’ve found, however, is that the true beauty of my job as a Taller de José Compañero lies at the intersection of these roads, where shared experiences bring about a perspective and love that powers the journey to come.