You can never escape Midnight Run
By Joey O’Connor, senior in the College of Business Administration
This is a phrase I’ve heard since my first year, and I honestly thought it was just a funny phrase coined by a couple of seniors; however, I feel it perfectly describes the ethos of Midnight Run; this is an organization that will have a profound impact on your Marquette experience if you let it. Midnight Run leaves an imprint on your heart that you’ll carry with you well past your years at Marquette.
It has changed the way I engage with the world. I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime, and I simply can’t escape it. Who knew a nightly running club could be so impactful! (Disclaimer: no running required- all we ask is that you walk in solidarity with your neighbor).
Before even moving into my residence hall, I learned how engrained Midnight Run is within the fabric of Marquette. After attending the Ignatian Leadership Retreat for incoming Marquette students, I had a conversation with Brian Martindale, an upperclassman student leader, discussing faith, justice, and my personal hopes for the upcoming four years.
At this moment he let me in on the secret of Midnight Run saying, “If you are interested in service, join Midnight Run. I promise you’ll love it,” he said. “Oh, and make sure to get there early. The line can get pretty long.”
This piece of advice was important as the sign-up line for Midnight Run is notorious for weaving throughout the entire AMU and out the door as people hope to attend their favorite site.
What followed would define my Marquette experience, as I began to truly learn what it meant to be men and women for and with others.
As an eager first year student, I naturally decided to get to sign-ups an hour early, and even then I was already fifth in line. While I waited in line doing homework, I began to feel the excitement bubbling within the AMU: chatter reminiscing about favorite sites, enduring memories, and hopes their favorite site would still be available.
As a first time Midnight Runner, I asked a couple upperclassman for suggestions, and I ended up with a site that fit nicely within my schedule: Tuesday mornings, bright and early, at 7 a.m. What followed would define my Marquette experience as I began to truly learn what it meant to be men and women for and with others. Tuesday mornings just so happened to be at The Gathering community meal program where I’d return each semester for all four years of Marquette.
As I visited The Gathering each week with a group of five other students for the semester, I met fellow peers who shared my values, showed genuine care for others, and challenged me to grow. The Gathering also showed me what it meant to be apart of Midnight Run while finding a home away from home in the Milwaukee community.
I can’t say that every day was easy; I’ve had my heart broken, been angry at the injustices saturating Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, and at times confused about the interconnected web of issues. In leaning into that discomfort, we are challenged to grapple with the inner workings and complexities of hunger, homelessness, and the variety of disparities experienced in our community. As I have explored these issues, I’ve found the most important first step is to walk in solidarity with our neighbors, build genuine, positive relationships, and offer everyone we encounter the inherent dignity we all deserve as humans.
I’ve had my heart broken, been angry at the injustices saturating Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, and at times confused about the interconnected web of issues.
As I reflect on my time at The Gathering, I’ll cherish the memories both big and small: tackling a mountain of dishes, sharing a meal or story with “the regulars”, or passing on a smile with my neighbor; I’ll never cease to be amazed by the grace, kindness, and resilience each guest showed in their approach to life. With this embodying such a large part of Midnight Run, what happens when we are unable to serve with our community in-person safely?
In the wake of the pandemic, much of what I knew Midnight Run to be, voluntary direct service, was no longer possible as we social distanced to keep our shared community safe. Since reflection is at the core of Midnight Run’s mission, the organization transitioned to round table discussions with the hope of being better prepared to grapple with social justice issues upon returning to in-person service.
Each individual person’s journey of learning is unique, and I loved the weekly, hour long meetings with my small group as we discussed topics of anti-racism, housing insecurity, hunger, and homelessness while recognizing the intersection of injustices within Milwaukee. I’m proud of my small groups as we created a space where we could come as we are, reflect, and give each other the grace to make mistakes.
Midnight Run Round Tables served as an important space for me to build community and friendships while we were reserved to sit behind computer screens in our PJs just moments away from each other. As a closing thought, I’m incredibly grateful for the Midnight Run community. We have had a variety of reflections and speakers throughout my four years, but one message has stuck with me. Allow yourself to be ruined. Let your heart be broken. Lean into the discomfort and challenge yourself to look up stream beyond what is in front of you.
The scope of social justice issues can feel daunting; however, by showing up each day in community and service with others, we can begin taking steps beyond service towards equity, solidarity, and justice and become agents of positive social change. You’ll never journey alone, and know that you can never escape Midnight Run.