Monday, October 4, 2010

Inner Beauty Personified

This Sunday I watched the Ravens versus Steelers game with the men at the Frederick Ozanam House, a rehabilitation facility in Fells Point for men who have dealt with alcohol and drug problems, or who have experienced homelessness in their lives. I first had the opportunity to meet these men during my pre-orientation program here at Loyola, which made me very interested in continuing to develop relationships with them. These men all provide such unique and real takes on life, and it is incredibly valuable to gain their perspectives. So often people who have plenty of money or live stable lives complain about their “misfortune”. They don’t know what misfortune is. These men have gone through hell and back, and I didn’t hear a single negative word from any of them in my time talking with them. My experience relates in many ways to the views on inner beauty presented in “My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” and “When I consider how my light is spent”, that is to say that inner beauty is infinitely more important than physical appearance.

My initial feeling towards these men was somewhat confusing. On the one hand, I knew that FOH is a rehabilitation facility, so I knew these men were all back on the right path. On the other hand, I had not done much work with drug users in my service experiences in high school, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I guess I had a predetermined idea of what these men would be like, most likely from TV programs or movies, and those thoughts were rather disconcerting.

When we got there, my fears were proved wrong almost instantly. All of the men were just so happy to see us that any awkwardness was almost immediately dispelled. It’s very similar to how Shakespeare describes his love in many ways. I knew certain things about these men coming in to the event, and that caused me to at least partially judge who they were as human beings, when in reality I was only judging an outer part of them.

I spent a large majority of the game talking to Warren, who told me back in September when we first met that he spent a decade as an intravenous drug user, and spent another in and out of jail. In fact, that was almost the first thing he told me. I’ve been around plenty of open people before, but the fact that he was so up front really shocked me. Growing up in the area he grew up in, he struggled to find who he really was, what his “one word” might be. He never had time for that, and in his effort to make money he got involved with the wrong crowd. Still, he held himself completely accountable for his actions, never blaming society as much as so many people are apt to do. He claimed that his faith in God was ten fold what it ever had been before, and that he was happy he had been through his whole ordeal. The whole concept of “inner beauty” is personified in the things I heard from Warren. On the surface, he’s an ex-convict with a history of drug abuse. After getting to talk with him and know him, I can see that he is a very caring man who realizes that he has made mistakes but is living his life to the fullest even with his burdens.

Overall, my experience getting to work with the FOH guys really put a lot of things into perspective. The fact that these men were so open and kind and accepting of all of us even after the many hardships they had suffered really spoke volumes to me about their “inner beauty”, and forced me to make sure I always think about who someone is rather than who they appear to be.

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