In honor of that party, and of being out of MercyWorks for a month now, and of the new class' first shadow day in program today, here is yet another reflection. This one I wrote for Mercy Home's website as an adjunct writer on their writing team. I know I've been reflection-heavy lately. A year of service takes a lot of processing. Without further adieu, here are more Post-Service Reflections:
Last August, 14 recent college graduates came together in Chicago to support kids in crisis and live in an intentional community. We didn't know each other, and some of us feared we wouldn't even like each other, but one year later, we are family. We know each other's dreams for the future, and we support those dreams with letters of encouragement and practical advice. We share meals and wardrobes, offer hugs and cups of tea after a long day at work, pull pranks on each other, and now that the year is over we've already planned our first reunion.
Through retreats, nights spent cooking dinner and reflecting on MercyWorks' five program values, trips to see Chicago's landmarks, watching marathons of our favorite TV shows, celebrating holidays and birthdays with local friends and families, and comparing work stories, we got to know each other--ups and downs, what drives us, what annoys us, what makes us scream with excitement. We also got to know the youth of the agency in similar ways: sharing meals, helping with chores and homework, playing games, and exploring the city. The similarities of MercyWorks and youth programs were a common discussion topic during community nights.
Other realizations from the work side of a volunteer year were that many times what meant little to me meant a lot to a teenager lacking support in his or her life. Also, not knowing everything or having all the answers can be a good thing--kids like to know that adults need to ask for help too. Finally, just because you grew up in rural Wisconsin doesn’t mean you can’t relate to a teenager growing up in Chicago.
A MercyWorks year is more than living with coworkers or working with roommates. It's late nights making beans and rice because your 13 roommates ate all the "fun food" from last week's grocery shopping already. It's early mornings reading the Chicago-Tribune over coffee and eggs to discuss the best ways to recycle in the city, or just reviewing your horoscope to see what the day holds. It's a full-time job, plus community responsibilities, plus discovering a new neighborhood or city or state. It's a year of personal, spiritual, and professional growth.So there you have it. As if you haven't heard enough about this year from me, I just went and over-clarified it for you. :)