Progress, Not Perfection

Progress, Not Perfection

A formerly homeless poet is a first-hand example of social justice in a broken world

Walter is a man who has seen it all.

He grew up on the South Side of Chicago as one of seventeen children in an underprivileged African-American family, and since has taken tours overseas with the military, been put on trial for a crime he didn’t commit (twice), published a poetry book, and, for the majority of the past decade, been homeless.

But what’s truly remarkable about Walter is his outlook. See, he’s someone who has every right to feel sorry for himself, to pity and curse the state of mankind, to give up on life. But he doesn’t. Walter represents the lowest of society, the 'anawim', yet his outlook is among the most positive and inspiring.

As he says, “The message of Christianity, the only message, is helping others.” And he truly does, too, volunteering almost every day, not wasting a moment of the time he has left. Walter also often quotes his mother, saying, “If I can help one somebody, maybe my life will not be lived in vain.”

I had the opportunity to meet with Walter several times over the past few months and film interviews as part of a thesis project that delves into topics of social justice and spirituality, specifically in regards to Walter’s life and journey. Throughout my conversations with him, I noticed a common trend in his consistent efforts to put his entire energy towards what he believed to be right. Also known as Magis.

The Jesuit concept of Magis has been passed down through my family since the days of my grandfather’s uncle, Fr. Edward Surtz, SJ, a former department chair at Loyola University Chicago. Centered on the theme of “doing the most good”, I consider it to be at the core of the philosophy Walter demonstrates. It consists of doing anything and everything possible to make the surrounding world a better place, despite knowing it may never be complete.

Walter puts it this way:

"Progress, not Perfection.

Perfection is a product of this world’s fantasy,

Progress is a stable core of life’s reality.

In various phases of life you work to get it right,

Expecting results that will make life easy and bright.

But, you must beware for Perfection isn’t there.

Step-by-step, you must Progress if you dare.

Wanting Perfection is Ok to run through your mind,

But your goals will be reached through Progress in time.

Not reaching Perfection may cause you to stop

While Progressing step-by-step, you may take a hop

Progress over Perfection you must continue to try

Life will be better until the day you die

Progress, not Perfection."

The social injustices that inhibit our society may never fully disappear, but we can always “progress”. In my own life, I’m committed to doing anything and everything I can to enact positive change in the world around me. We all have been given the gift of life, and we all have the duty to do something good with it. It's an opportunity, a blessing, a special responsibility granted to each human being by God out of love. Thus, the Jesuit principle of Magis is centered on making the most of this gift, and using it to make a positive difference in the lives of others. It's doing anything and everything possible for Christ, and, in turn, the world.

My experience meeting, connecting with, and chronicling the life of Walter has instilled in me a deeper understanding of my own intent and purpose on the earth. It’s rare to meet a man who owns nothing more than a high school diploma and the clothes on his back, yet possesses more wisdom and experience than the vast majority of society.

I’ll be praying for Walter the next few months as he travels to Chicago for his next hearing. He’s struggling with transportation costs, especially after the last few scheduled times have been cancelled in favor of “more important cases than the black homeless man”.

I figure my prayers are about the least I can do. Not much, but something. Something to help a fellow human being worthy of love, justice, and respect.

My prayers are progress, not perfection. To me, that’s social justice.

Cover Image Credit: SurtzMedia

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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The Truth About Politics In Religion And How It Affects Our Relationship With God

They don't have to be mutually exclusive.


It's evident that religion can and has been used in politics from the values of voters and leaders. However, to use your religion or your relationship with God for making political decisions doesn't share the same meaning.

I've always loved finding all the best facts and research for argumentative work but I couldn't pursue that approach for this topic. Why? Because I've experienced the pattern in my relationship with God of how God defies logic.

God can't be contained to a definition or explanation. I liked the way I've heard one leader express that, "If you hear someone trying to explain to God as if he knows then he's a fool before he starts talking". That's a paradox within itself.

I've learned more recently to identify that the two sides of the paradox that you might wrestle with in understanding God are both true. That, yes, His hands are big and He knows exactly what to do to make you surrender but you'll also find no greater love than with Him because He has the biggest heart and knows what you need better than you do.

I think that accepting this paradox will differentiate between those that view politics religiously versus those that view it from 'what is God trying to do here'? The one that focuses on seeking 'what is God trying to do here?' would represent those with a relationship with God. This doesn't mean that referencing the laws of God exempts you from having a relationship but the love of God is the strength that sustains the relationship over the law. This is also a bit of a paradox because they're both important in Christianity.

There's the difference from seeing God as one-sided which is very prideful, limiting and incorrect compared to recognizing that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

I believe that what we believe and how we see God will bring limitations or provision on how we can be used in God's plan for His kingdom on earth when it comes to the way the world is run.

God, our relationship with God and the law of God all have to be considered in the things we do as Christians.

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