As I walk through the Tenderloin district of San Francisco to work every day, I can’t help but hear the lyrics to “Holy Ground” by Christopher Beatty run through my head. “This is Holy Ground. We’re standing on Holy Ground. The Lord is present, and where He is, is holy.”
The Tenderloin is a little rough around the edges. As my fellow LV and I dodge discarded needles and piles of human feces day after day on the hustle to work every morning, it becomes very easy to pass right by the homeless people and makeshift beds lining every street without a second thought. Oftentimes we are on a mission to get from point A to point B without noticing our surroundings. I’ll admit, sometimes I need to remind myself to pay attention to what is actually happening on my walk to work. And when I take a moment to really look around me, I see more than drug deals and homelessness. I see God.
I see God in the homeless who give me a smile, nod and say “God bless” as I walk by.
I see God in the crossing guards who know Abbey and I by name and hug us every.single.day, without fail.
I see God in the students at De Marillac who see the world with a lens of hope, joy, and compassion.
I see God in the familiar faces of the Tenderloin community that ask me how my day is going every time I run into them.
I see God in my students who have experienced more difficulty and struggle in their short lives than I ever have, but still come to school every day with a huge smile and a positive attitude.
I see God in the ministries in the Tenderloin that provide services to those who need it. I see God in the people who work at these ministries who humbly give of themselves in the service of others.
I see God in my coworkers who commute by BART every single day to De Marillac. Sometimes my quick walk to work can seem daunting, but then I remember everyone at DMA who sits on a crowded bus or train every morning and afternoon, just to wake up and do it all over again the next day.
I see God in the people on the street who smile at my students as we walk across the street to P.E. and remind them how blessed they are to be getting an education.
I even see God in the drug deals that happen on the corner, because although I may not know why or how, I know that God is working in each of their lives, and I know that every human being is still a beloved child of God.
The Tenderloin may appear a little rough around the edges. But the Tenderloin, at its core, is a place of hope. It is home to some pretty incredible people; some pretty amazing things are happening in this place that can be described as “one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco.” From the outside, many people would say the Tenderloin could never be “holy ground” because it is so full of addiction, poverty, and despair. But what those people don’t see, is the hope, the love, the community within the Tenderloin. That is what makes the Tenderloin holy ground. People will say to me, “You’re volunteering? Good for you, you’re doing great things for that community!” When in fact, it is the other way around. This community is doing great things for me. Every day I go to work at DMA and I feel so blessed to be part of something so much larger than myself. Most days I am still in awe to be part of a school community that is so dedicated to not just the students, but the community around it as well. I feel incredibly blessed just to know my dedicated coworkers, and the hardworking families that send their children to De Marillac for a holistic, life-changing education. Being a part of this community is a blessing every single day.
Every day that I walk through the Tenderloin to De Marillac, I feel God’s presence. I can physically feel that I am walking on Holy Ground. Because “the Lord is present, and where He is, is holy.”
Kacie Kusinski is a 2nd year LV serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, California and is a 2015 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.