I came into EUIP and did not know what to expect but I’m enjoying the ride. I’m a social worker who is fighting for social justice.
It’s hard living intentionally when you grew up with amenities that you don’t have now like air during the summer and the money to splurge on unnecessary goodies.
This experience is making me grateful for the things God has blessed me with. God has given me more of a passion to serve. I wake up and see hundreds of homeless lined along the street and I tell myself, ‘Whitney will do her part’.
I am determined and focused on helping those that need a little support and encouragement to make it. I am focused on fighting for social justice with every fiber of my being.
Well, Edgar, you are a teacher for the next 4 months. The whole shebang parent teacher conferences, lesson plans, discipline, just all of it. You were Mr. Soto and asserted that and owned that role so here’s your attempt to give yourself advice. Now, you tell yourself that you wouldn’t have been able to see it a year ago, but don’t believe it. You can try and lie that you never would have guessed that this is how you would spend your time. But look deep and you’ll know that YOU put your life in this trajectory. You’re kind of responsible for your life choices. The world didn’t make you do it, the program didn’t make you do it, I guess your worksite kind of did; but not really. Just be honest, a part of you wanted to do it. Don’t lie to yourself, you could have said no. There is always a way out. I mean your co-interns left. That was a thing, but I guess that’s another story. And the thing to take away is: it’s great that you know that you don’t want to spend the rest of your life as a teacher.
OK, so you’ve acknowledged it. Now that you’ve gotten past that, you’re left trying to manage the stress that results from being a teacher. Yes, there’s stress. Can’t forget about that stress! By THAT stress I mean the whole being directly responsible for about one hundred and twenty 7th graders. Let me clarify, by directly responsible I mean, calling parents and telling them how they should behave, act and be responsible. No, don’t tell the kids that, the kids already know that by how you interact with them! I’m talking about the parents, the so-called “adults”. You’ll tell the parents to think about how their actions affect the rest of their lives, how education is important, how health is important and it’ll feel like it’s falling on deaf ears. OK, I’ll be honest, you have to somehow hold face. Yes, you have to pretend that you know what you’re doing. The parents are going to try and break you down. DON’T LET IT HAPPEN. That defeats the whole purpose of being there, (plus it helps that you know that they know that nobody really knows what they’re doing).
Now the responsibility is really the hardest part. No I’m not lying, it doesn’t seem that hard, but it is. The thing, that I’m trying to talk to you about, carries with it so much weight. Just so much context and you won’t be able to understand it all; that’s ok. You’ll be frustrated by all the self-defeat and ignorance. But it’s ok, because you’re not the only one that’s carrying this responsibility. You’re just one of the few that has acknowledged it. MOST IMPORTANTLY you can’t forget that there are good things! For instance the easiest part is the teaching, the Math, the logic. Yes, some of the kids won’t understand the material, but that shouldn’t let you down, because you’re taking over near the end of the term and you can’t save them. In this way at least. But you’ve already recognized that in october so you should be good.
I’m saying that you should be good because there will be days when you’ll look at the kids and get tired of seeing them so tired. It’ll be depressing. There’s no getting around the fact that you can’t do systemic change, right now, because of all the systemic factors. That doesn’t mean that the work you’re doing isn’t meaningful. You’re impacting their lives. Though the kids and the staff don’t seem like it, how you interact with them is going to impact how they interact with others later. I know it sounds hard to believe right now. And yes, saying this out loud probably won’t help all the time. But most of the time, when you interact with love, which is how you interact, then it’ll help. It’s not immediately tangible. But it’s real. It’s a microcosm of the world. And you’ll remember these interactions for the rest of your life; let them teach you.
What am I here for? What does God want me to do? What makes me happy? What brings me joy? What does it mean to live in solidarity?
I have committed myself to serving. I have committed myself to a year of vulnerability, a year of challenges, a year of happiness, a year of joy, a year of growth and I have committed myself to a year of reflection through journaling and meditation. Part of these reflections come from Healing for Damaged Emotions. A book which has been difficult but rewarding. It is a book about emotional healing through a spiritual and psychological lens. Throughout the book, I have learned more about myself and the power of slowing down and pausing.
Slowing down for me comes in many forms, but when I slow down I mean it as a form of prayer and self-care. The best form for me is being in nature. For instance, going to the beach and walking on the sand or putting my feet in the water. Also, enjoying the view of the hills, the mountains, the sky and the sun. It all reminds me of God: His grace, His mercy, and His love for me.
This year I work at St. Joseph Center, a nonprofit organization focused on helping the homeless. In the morning, I speak with at least 100 clients, to sign them up for a shower or lunch. In the afternoon, I work as a case manager. On any given day, I can wake up at 6:30am, rush to get ready, eat breakfast, get in the car and head to work. I can just sign up my clients and rush throughout the day to make it home. Or I can wake up at 6:00am and be intentional. I can acknowledge the presence of my housemates by saying good morning. I can take in the view as I am driving to work. As I am signup clients I can look them in the eye and have a conversation. I can interact with them and let them know that I am serving because I know that I can meet them where they are and they can meet me where I am. I can take the time to get to know them. I can laugh with them, cry with them and learn from them.
Personally, I need moments to recharge; to just be by myself in a quiet space. As you can imagine, sometimes pausing can be hard to do and when I find myself stressed or overworked I force myself to make time for self-care. Serving can easily become just a job. There needs to be a constant awareness of being in solidarity with the community you are serving because it can easily become just a routine.
Voices of Service
These are reflections from corps members and alumni of Jubilee Year and the Episcopal Urban Intern Program. They cover topics ranging from the sun, fun and friends in in Los Angeles to the uncensored experiences of serving vulnerable populations in our beautiful city. These are Voices of Service. For more, go through our archives below