by Kara McNamara, Precious Blood Volunteer Alumna
When I left Crownpoint, New Mexico a couple days before Christmas in 2013, I was overwhelmed by the simultaneous warmth and weight of my experience. After a full week of difficult goodbyes to my students and the teachers and staff at St. Bonaventure Mission School, the people of both faith communities, and others that I came to know—Father Al, Sister Maureen, and Sister Michelle—I couldn’t and didn’t look in my rearview mirror. I drove and drove—through Albuquerque, Amarillo, Wichita, Kansas City, Davenport, and finally Chicago. I was exhausted and elated.
I walked through the first ten months of 2014 with a lot of prayer, reflection, and questions. What did my six months in Crownpoint mean?
I moved back to Dayton, Ohio where I had gone to college, and I now have a job there with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I live in a historic, urban neighborhood with a good friend from college, and I am volunteering as a mentor in the community and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in abuse and neglect cases in Juvenile Court. I go on walks, buy a fair amount of lattes at the neighborhood coffee shop, spend time with friends, and try to see God in everyone I meet. And as I do all of these everyday things, I carry my experiences in Crownpoint with me.
My time on the reservation changed me, and it couldn’t be clearer to me, now that I have moved back to a familiar place, surrounded by familiar people, doing familiar tasks. Going back to the familiar has made me realize that I don’t fit quite the same way that I used to—which is a good thing. I am different. I am stronger, more compassionate. I think I have a better understanding of the complexities of poverty and the reality of hopelessness. I am more reliant on God. I am a little more street-smart. I am definitely more handy after some of those home improvement projects I took on with Leah and the sisters!
But it wasn’t until this past November when I made a return trip to New Mexico, that all of my questions and good memories and hopes and concerns from my volunteer experience came together into a beautiful mosaic. I stood in places that I had been the year before—on top of West Mesa, on the balcony off my old bedroom overlooking the mine, inside the rooms of Chetro Ketl at Chaco Canyon, in St. Paul’s church, and in the car driving down Highway 371. As I stood in those places, I realized that the change in my heart that began in Crownpoint has continued to work in me.
Returning to Crownpoint was a personal commitment I made on the last day of my volunteer work. It was important to me to return—for my own understanding and to visibly keep my promise to the people I met there that I would never forget them. My time as a Precious Blood volunteer is an important part of who I am. I look forward to continuing to return to the reservation, and I look forward to continuing to allow God to let the light of my time in New Mexico shine in me and through me.
Kara McNamara served as a Precious Blood Volunteer in Crownpoint, New Mexico from June-December 2013. She is a graduate of the University of Dayton and currently lives in Dayton, Ohio.