Hi there! My name is Robert Johnson, the new Storytelling and Journalism Coordinator for NeighborLink Fort Wayne. I’d like to begin my biweekly blog with the unconventional story of how I ended up at NeighborLink.
Do you have a neighboring story of your own? Send it my way at email@example.com.
“So…how does a business owner like me get their logo on a Team NeighborLink jersey?”
I remember texting those seemingly innocent words to my friend Chris, a cyclist for Team NeighborLink, in the early weeks of 2018. Although I had never heard of NeighborLink Fort Wayne or their connection to the cycling team, my friend gave enough of a rundown that it left me yearning for more. Within minutes, Chris introduced me to Andrew Hoffman, the Executive Director of NeighborLink, by email. He suggested we meet in person and I excitedly agreed. If my favorite storyteller, J.R.R. Tolkien, could put that fateful moment into words, he’d likely quote himself: “Round the corner there may wait, a new road or secret gate.”
Andrew was kind enough to meet me at my own workplace on the other side of town. After giving him a tour of our brand new production facility, he took a seat across from me and jumped right into the mission, vision, and heart of what NeighborLink does on a daily basis: sharing practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love. To say that meeting was an inspiration would be an understatement. It was, in fact, an eye-opening, enlightening, and impactful conversation that left me shaken to the core and one I would not easily forget.
A few months later, as I began development on my second business, I couldn’t help but think back to the conversation Andrew and I had shared. There was an internal struggle raging within: could I develop a for-profit business with the same heart, passion, and intent that Andrew had shared with me about NeighborLink? Was it possible to develop a product that simply served as a delivery device for sharing practical neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love? If so, what would that even look like? Although it took a couple of months to strategize and plan, I was soon convinced it could be done and set out to make it happen.
After successfully launching product, I set out to find a new creative outlet in Autumn 2019. One thing was certain: my heart leaned heavily toward cause, vision, and community. I wondered if there was a local organization that could use my creative skillset. If so, how could I find them? I had been an entrepreneur for nearly seven years and was not interested in the job search process. But then it happened: I noticed NeighborLink was actively seeking a Storytelling and Journalism Coordinator as part of their AmeriCorps VISTA partnership. It was as if the heavens had parted and a light shone down upon that very same secret gate Tolkien had written about all those years before. Without preamble, I hit the Apply Now button and immediately crossed my fingers. I didn’t bother applying for any other job. It was all-or-nothing.
Andrew and I met for drinks and vision-casting a couple of weeks later at Conjure Coffee. A year and a half had done nothing to dampen his grand vision of expressing neighborly kindness. His passion was infectious, authentic, and more solidified than the first time we had met in early 2018. Eventually, the all-important question came to bear: could I see myself contributing to that grand, inspiring vision as well?
I didn’t hesitate. I was all in.
I stepped into the NeighborLink office on my first day of work eager to add my hands, heart, and talent to an organization I’d already come to love and admire over the previous two years. Within minutes, I was excitedly greeted by each team member who already knew my name and the skills I happily brought to the table as Storytelling and Journalism Coordinator. Overwhelmed by their kindness, I found my brand-new desk and glanced at a whiteboard hovering above the computer. Scrawled across its surface was a familiar quote from the very same storyteller who wrote of new roads, secret gates, and unexpected adventures of neighbors bearing burdens for the betterment of all:
“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”
I couldn’t help but crack a smile and settle in to my brand new home.