Wednesday, February 27, 2008
A time in life where I felt exiled was on an Alternative Spring Break trip to East St. Louis. For those who do not know, East St. Louis is a war zone in the shadow of a big city. Drugs, prostitution, and crime rule the streets, and nearly every building is either destroyed or falling down. To return to the topic, East St. Louis was, at times, a very uncomfortable place to be. I was in a group of about eight guys, so I wasn't by myself in total exile, but the feeling you get from the people of the city is eerie. The people of the city were not very welcoming. I would acknowledge them and say, "Hello," without response. On other occasions, my words would be met with blank stares. I could tell that we were not welcome, but I was unable to understand why. We were there to help. In the four days I was there we laid all of the flooring in one building and passed out food on a nightly basis. Nevertheless, the people of East St. Louis appeared skeptical of what we were doing. It was difficult to adjust to being in a place where I was not considered welcome. The feeling can be not only lonely, but frightening.