Why Am I Here?

CHARLEY SCHAFFNER


As I’m sitting in a new place that will be my new home for the whole summer, I am thinking of all the events in my life that led me to be sitting here in this church, hundreds of miles from home. “Why am I here?” I kept asking myself.

I’ve always been someone who stood up for what and who I believed in. This became real for me the summer going into my freshman year. Eric Potter ran into my dad and said they still had some open spots for their mystery mission trip. My dad called my mom to tell her about it, and I was in the car, definitely listening in on the conversation. I reluctantly looked at my mom and said, “I don’t want to do this, but I know I need to,” and I couldn’t have been any more right about that. So for the first time, I packed up my bags and traveled hundreds of miles away from my family with a bunch of strangers to places I’ve never been before.

Before they told us where we were going, they bussed two separate groups of students to a rest stop near Springfield. Neither group knew the other group was coming. I was on the bus with the rural and suburban white kids, and the kids on the other bus were from the inner city of Peoria. When we all pulled into the rest stop and began to get off our buses, we noticed we had the same shirts on. Then it clicked.

Jay and Eric, our trip leaders, explained the purpose of the trip, and then they placed us in mixed groups. We were now a very diverse group of kids and we were headed to the south to explore the issue of race and racism in America...together. I remember asking myself on the drive, “Why did I say yes to this?” But after this week-long mission trip, I knew exactly why I had to go on this trip. I knew why God had my dad run into Eric at the coffee shop and tell him I could go on this trip.

This trip challenged me, stretched me, broke my heart, and changed how I saw the world. When I lived in my small town of Delavan, I felt it was my responsibility to stand up for and speak out for those who are marginalized: people of color, LGBTQ, women, and those with disabilities. I used my voice and often felt alone because of it. I was a Christian AND I loved everyone and stood up for what I believed in. Apparently that was a pretty crazy thing for some people.

My first year at college in Chicago was a role change for me. There were times I asked myself “Why am I here?” because honestly, I didn’t know. It felt so strange and different. At home, I was the voice of the marginalized and I spoke up when I needed to, but here, that wasn’t the case. It was uncomfortable at times, but I like to say if I learned anything from my freshman year, it was that I learned to listen. I realized to care for something and stand up for it doesn’t mean you have to be on the front line of things; sometimes it just means supporting those who are. I now realize to stand up for what and who you believe in, you need to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and listen—I mean really listen—and then learn.

So as I sit in a church on a Native American Reservation, a place I know nothing about, a place where at times I might struggle and ask myself “Why am I here?” I ask you, are you willing to put yourself in uncomfortable positions, places you may ask yourself “Why am I here?” to allow yourself to grow and learn to support the things and people you believe in?


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Charley Schaffner is 19, going to school at North Park University, and studying Elementary Education. She is a lover of all. She loves good music, good food, and good conversations. She also really loves her family and her cats.

Christina Hite