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A letter from YAV Tad Hopp in Chicago

February 2011

Dear Friends:

It is time once again for another newsletter. This month has been full of a lot of personal struggles and changes so bear with me. While it doesn’t contain much in the way of news, I think you will still be satisfied with the content of this newsletter. I am approaching the end of my seventh month here. Hard to believe that it has been that long that I have been here. It certainly doesn’t feel like it sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes it feels like I have been here forever. There are some times when I think, “It’s only been seven months!!” and other times when I think, “It’s only been seven months??!!” I think if you were to ask any of the other Young Adult Volunteers though, they would all say the same thing. We have all had those days when we just want to quit and then had days where we feel so invigorated. It’s all part of the process. I’m starting to realize just how much that has come to fruition as February has proven to be one of the most difficult months I have faced here yet.

So, if you read the news at all, you probably heard something about the massive blizzard that hit Chicago at the beginning of the month. In the span of three days, we got hit with about 20 inches of snow. Even for a city that is used to snow, it was excessive and so we ended up with a couple of snow days which is something I never expected would happen up here. I think by the end of the week, though, we were all ready to get back to work at our sites as three days cooped up in the house together with nothing to do and nowhere to go was starting to drive us crazy. The entire city practically shut down for two days and students found themselves having snow days for the first time in 12 years. Unfortunately, I did not get to reap the benefits of the snow days as I came down with a case of the flu right at the same time. I spent three days in bed barely moving or eating and was just miserable. I actually took a sick day from my site which is something I never do. I mean, we’re talking about the person who went to work with strep throat and bronchitis multiple times because I just hate taking sick days!! However, it ended up being a positive thing because my sick day ended up only being a half day because of the blizzard and the next two days were snow days so I really only ended up using half a sick day so I don’t feel as bad about it. I really hate that I got sick, especially since I bragged in my last newsletter about how I had managed to avoid being sick all of last year. Guess that was God’s way of humbling me a little bit, huh??!!

Also, if you have been following the news, you might have heard that Chicago elected a new mayor just last week. This is significant for the simple reason that the outgoing mayor had been in power for over 20 years so this marked a significant change in the makeup of the city. The outgoing mayor, Richard J. Daley, and his father, Richard M. Daley, had together served as mayor of Chicago for 43 of the last 50 years, so for many Chicagoans, it marked the first time that they had ever voted for somebody without the last name Daley!! The Daley administration was plagued with accusations of corruption all during his terms so hopefully some new administration will put those accusations to rest. I am hopeful that Rahm Emanuel will fix some things during his time in office. He has made many promises and I just hope he can manage to keep them as even in just my short time here, I have noticed there are some things in this city that need to be fixed. I think a new mayor is just what this city needs and so remain optimistic that the transition will be a positive one.

I didn’t mean to turn this into a newsletter about politics and the weather so I apologize if that is not what you want to hear. However, both those things do affect my everyday life here so they become important to share with others. The weather here especially affects my mood and outlook on life. After the snowstorm ended, there was actually about a week long period where it was in the 40s and 50s and it felt so good. It feels crazy to say that 40 degree weather can feel warm but it’s true. Unfortunately, that weather has passed and we are now back to the 20s and 30s with snow on the ground. I’m definitely at the point where I am ready for spring not because I hate winter or snow but just because I am ready for a change. I want spring flowers and to be able to wear shorts and walk around without a heavy jacket and all that spring entails.

This brings me to my next point. Over the course of the month, I have realized that as much as I love Chicago, it is not where I am meant to stay once this year is over with. It pains me to say that as I had hoped to make Chicago my new home and settle down and establish roots here but it is not meant to be. I can’t explain what caused me to feel this way although I have been asked by several people to explain it. I guess I just don’t feel like this is the city I am meant to thrive in. I know that I was meant to be here for this year. God showed me that within the first month I was here. He had a purpose in sending me here and I have to trust that He has a purpose in sending me away from here. I don’t yet know where he will be sending me next but I just have to trust that he will reveal it in His own time and in His own way. Sometimes, putting my trust and faith in God is the hardest part of this whole process. It really unnerves me not to have control of the situation and to have to rely on someone else for support and strength and guidance. That’s all part of the process, though.

One other thing that I am struggling with here is the fact that I am always having to be “on” and never really have time to be “off”. There are definitely some days and sometimes weeks where it feels like I am constantly in extrovert mode and never have time to be in introvert mode. That is something I really need to continue to work on over the next few months: finding my time that I can turn “off” even for just a few hours and just be an introvert and curl up and hide away. It’s hard though because I live with five other people and my job requires me to be extroverted the whole time I am there. It’s a difficult process figuring out what’s needed for me.

One change that we have experienced at Faith House this month is what I like to call the Great Room Swap of 2011!! What this entailed was some of us switching rooms with each other and changing the roommate setup. The first six months, Katie and Stephanie shared a room and all the guys had their own room but it was decided at the very beginning of our time living together that we would change that up at the six month mark. So, I am now sharing a room with Brian. I was initially really nervous about this because it marks the first time in seven years that I have had to share a room with somebody and since my previous experiences did not end positively I was extremely hesitant. However, so far it has worked out pretty well. We have similar interests and sleep schedules so no major conflicts there. Also, I now have a closet and a bookshelf, things I did not have in my old room. It’s amazing how I took those kind of things for granted before. The room is also way bigger than my old one and the fact that I have a closet and a bookshelf is more than enough to make it worth it. Brian and I are both applying to seminary so we have fun talking about essay topics and schools and their pros and cons. So far, it is proving to be a positive experience and gives me hope that I can successfully share a room with someone else without feeling the need to kill them or kick them out all the time!! So, I am looking at it as just another part of my growth journey!!

Well, that is all the news I have to report for you this month. I hope this month has found you doing well and that the recent snowstorms did not affect anybody too badly. Thanks again for all your support over the last few months. It means more than words can ever say. Your support and prayers and words of encouragement are what keeps me going and sometimes they are the only thing that keeps me going. I hope this newsletter doesn’t come off as too depressing. I am not depressed, I’m actually incredibly happy but I am definitely sometimes struggling with everything here and there are times when it gets to be too much sometimes. Still, the good times far outnumber the bad. I’m ready to see what March brings. I survived February which is often regarded as the worst month here so now I think I can survive anything!!

Tad Hopp

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