This summer, I came home for the summer unsure of what it would hold for me. The unknown is intimidating and scary, and makes me want to run from whatever is coming. But in this internship, I have learned to embrace the unknown in a new way. I have been able to observe and take in so much through working with Andrew and Jeff at NeighborLink.
1. My passion and desire to change the world is not enough. Its great and necessary to have those feelings of empathy, passion, and fire for a certain population or social problem, but without action those feelings just sit there. The moment that you start acting on them, and start trying to do something about them is when transformation happens. As an intern I have a choice each week to sit in the office day in and day out, or instead to get out and take on a project of my own. It is way easier for me to fill my time with important tasks and jobs and forget why I am even doing them. I have the passion and desire to see vulnerable home owners get help, but I am learning that I am that help. I can be that for one person, and it requires a choice: do I set aside time for that and create space for transformation, or do I choose to let my time pass me by and just let those feelings sit? This is something that I have been wrestling with since I started at NeighborLink.
2. People are hurting, and I can't fix them. This is contrary to everything that we are taught today. We, as humans, are "fixers". We see a problem, and have been taught to fix it, repair it, mend it. I interact with a lot of vulnerable home-owners. I listen to their stories, and talk with them about how we can help them at NeighborLink. My heart breaks a little bit each day because I hear the struggle and desperation and want to have the magical word that will make it better or have the right connection to fix them. Did you read that? I want to fix them. It starts with wanting to fix the problem, but underneath that is a belief that if I just get the right _____ , or say _____, then the person will be fixed. This is a broken way of thinking. Granted, the heart behind it is good. Wanting to help and see that person become whole is good. But I cannot fix people, because we are innately broken. I believe that God is the ultimate healer, and we can help heal small parts of someone with His power, but the ultimate healing and "fixing" will happen when we have encounters with God. Until then, my thinking that I can fix all that is broken in a person is futile. What I can do is love intentionally, be present with, encourage, pray for, and be willing to serve people over myself.
3. Ideas, ideas, ideas. One thing that I have been learning is to constantly cultivate ideas. I have watched Andrew have ideas and be confident in testing them. He has then challenged me to turn my own ideas into reality. One idea I had was a women's gathering. I just shared my idea one day at lunch, and immediately Andrew and Jeff were asking questions about how to develop that idea and make it happen. When I went home that day, I felt so overwhelmed. I didn't know where to start and was wanting to make this the best event ever and impress everyone who would be involved. First of all, that pressure was false. After talking through those feelings, I realized that I was being invited to experiment and if it didn't go well, that was okay. I have learned to confidently experiment with my ideas, and be just as confident that whatever the outcome is, it will be a success because I was willing to try. Which leads me to my next point:
4. It's not about me. This is pretty self explanatory, but let me just say it is all too easy to get in your own way. For example, when I had the idea about having a women's gathering I got in my own way. It started becoming about me. I wanted this event to be a reflection of my capability and wanted to show that I could create a great event. What? The goal for the gathering was not to showboat, but to connect these women, hear their experiences, and encourage them to serve in their own unique ways. It was about them, but I was making it about me. Through the process of developing that event and planning, I had to give up my pride and realize that it wasn't about me. I had to get out of the way so that God could have easier access to those women. It is hard to realize that its not all about us. Not because we are so self absorbed that we can't see anything else, but because everyone has a desire to be known and, on some level, a fear that if we aren't seen and admired we don't matter. That is anything but true. There is One who sees us and knows us and is cheering us on everyday. When I realized that I had been focused on myself instead of those women, I felt shame. But that shame was an indicator that I was not receiving grace. God gives us grace in those moments, and wants us to see those moments as a turning point to live differently, not a ditch to get stuck in. See, it's not about me, and thats okay. Because when it's not about me, I have such freedom to not worry how I am perceived, and can move more freely in loving people.
These are some of the things that I have been learning while interning with NeighborLink. I am grateful for the opportunities I have daily to challenge how I view the world and how I can become a better steward of my time and resources. I am not in any way perfect, nor do I have any of the above things perfected. I am a work in progress, and will be the rest of my life. Sometimes I will get it right, sometimes I won't and that is a beautiful thing. - Katie