Moving to Omak, Washington to serve as case manager at a shelter for people experiencing homelessness and mental illness, Jesuit volunteer Spencer Uemura '16 got an earful of "us/them" thinking. Well-intended friends warned him to be careful of this unpredictable, sometimes scary population.
Listening to backstories of trauma, abuse, and neglect at Shove House was humbling. When an 88-year-old priest told Spencer that under similar circumstances, he too might turn to alcohol and drugs, new viewpoints and a new story began simmering.
Previously, Spencer thought of himself as serving on the margins. "But that notion comes from the perspective of someone who thinks they understand where the center of society is," he says. Now he recognizes that while everyone has difficulties, "there is so much joy in our shared experience." As he moves toward a career in social work, he continues learning "to have an open mind and to first approach people with a mindset of love and understanding, rather than having my judgments at the forefront."