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Sunday, June 29, 2008

redifining priorities

Today my hair straightner broke.
It literally snapped in half.
To some this may seem like a minor detail of life. To others who have seen my natural hair texture, this signals a small emergency, or does it?
These days things like that do little to rattle me. I'm usually good at problem solving and so I can think my way out of it.
But this morning when I went to go pull my straightner out of my suitcase only to find it was now in two pieces ,I was distressed.
I didn't think the burnout of my new job and moving would really settle in until a few weeks but here I am, frantically trying to piece together my hair straightner feeling down and ashamed.
Ashamed that this would cause me to go into such panic mode. But to be fair to myself, I know that in many ways this is merely the straw that broke the camles back. A mere disruption that underscores the many disruptions, adjustments and annoyances that have occured this last week.
Fortunately, I was preparing to go to church and I was confident that a few hours focused on something greater than myself would put things back into perspective and bring me back to my center of peace. It did, momentarily.
But when I get home there it was, still broken. I decided to look at this from a bigger picture and take this time where my emotions were raw and available to understand how this experience was beginning to shape me and redifine my priorities.
Two months ago, this wouldn't have been much of a big deal. I would've just gotten a new straightner. It was that important and money was of little concern. But now, I live in a world where options like that are just not readily available. There's no way I can fathom spending $50 or even $25 on a straightner.
Last week I remember getting off the subway and entering the gallery (the lone mall here). The first thing I saw was a cinnabon and thought "I have to have one." But at that point I was sleeping on the floor and had a cucumber in my refrigerator. I had to really think about the long term benefits of spending money on that cinnabon or using it for something else.
For some this may seem like silly shallow moment in some spoiled girls life, but this new way of looking at life and money and what is important is different and foreign.
In a lot of ways, the things I spent my money on, the things I had were apart of my identity. Not having that security puts me in a very interesting place.
I know there are people who are in much more dire situations, it's moments like these where I pray for them and ask God to give them grace. It's more uplifting than merely using their misfortune to make me feel thankful for what I do have.
I also realize that I will be working with people in situations much more complicated and urgent everyday, and this gives me an opportunity to have greater empathy for them as well as an understanding of what is really needed in someone's life when there at that point.
Still I feel something shifting in everything I am.
It's times like these where I want to go back. Back to where it was safer and easier and where I didn't have to work as hard, and I had very little cares. But then I realize that 'back' doesn't really exist. There has never been a time, at least in my life, devoid of some unstablizing moment. In fact it was all those hectic, unstable moments that I believe have prepared me for this moment. Prepared me for faith and, as the Lord says in 2 Corinthians 12 ,"my grace is sufficient for you."
So the straightener, well I'll have to get creative or go wavy/frizy/blah. I'm becoming who I've always been, like something is being pulled out of me that has been stuck and tainted and broken yet is now being stripped and reborn.

Song: Stand by Rascal Flatts

Quote: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment. Eckhart Tolle

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Don't Stop This Train

There are moments when I realize "I'm so scared of getting older, I'm only good at being young" to take from a famous John Mayer song.

When I arrived in Philadelphia and got off the plane I realized that I don't have a return ticket, this is it, this is home. And still there are moments everyday when the finality of this, the reality of this hits me. Some of those moments have been good and fun, others have made me stop and reflect. There are a lot of times when I feel so small compared to the responsibility given to me in this job. Yet there are many more times when I feel completely exhilarated. Like yesterday, Shawn, my co-site coordinator next year and the current site coordinator for the West Philly office, sent me the monthly report from May along with some updates on what the office has been doing. I was reading through those nine pages like it was the next great american novel. And every part of it, the statisctics on client services, the analysis of client to volunteer meetings, the numbers, everything made me so excited to work with this organization.It made me brain go off in a million different directions of how to work with the clients, where to find board members, how to provide apprproriate leadership development for our volunteers.

I don't want to stop this train, who knows what's at the next station. I don't, but I want to find out.

THIS living-on-my-own-psuedo-adult-moment made me really excited. So I have this magnet I bought a while ago just because it was cute but of course I had no where to put it. But the other day I was at the refrigerator and I was like "my magnet, I can put it own the door." I have my very own refrigerator and I can put my very own magnets and notes on it. I went to rush to go find it and I could barely contain myself as I unwrapped it and put it on the door. My very own magnet on my very own refrigerator ahh.
Song: Don't Stop this Train by John Mayer
Quote: Behind all this, some great happiness is hiding. Yehuda Amichai

Friday, June 27, 2008

What is the what?

Okay, so this is a shallow post that has nothing to do with service or the city or anything remotely profound. But it's an interesting snapshot of what's going on in my day to day life. I have been holding a small scale investigation and I think I have a rodent. That's fairly common, everyone I've talked to that lives here in Philly has had run ins with mice and the like.

My suspicions started when I found the back of my bread looked like it had teeth marks in it and a chunck of bread was missing in the back. I wasn't sure exactly what to think since there could've been other explanations like maybe it was close to the stove and melted a little.

But then yesterday when I came home I decided to move the bananas back into the refrigrator because I really couldn't stand the smell of bananas in here everyday. Thing was one of the bananas not only had the skin missing of one side it also had bite marks. And they weren't small.

Now I really began to wonder because things had been happening that I really hadn't pieced together like weird sounds in the night and things falling off my kitchen counter for no apparent reason.

So I decided to leave a goldfish cracker on the counter to see if there was anything going bump in the night. This morning, it was gone. Not one crumb left.

Now I'm quite at a lost. When I was a kid we had a problem with mice and we set mouse traps. I thought we were setting the traps to catch the mouse and keep them as pets or release them back to the wild. Imagine my horror when I went into the laundry room and found a little mouse with it's head crushed between the mouse trap. I don't think I've ever fully recovered. Needless to say I can't bear the thought of killing whatever it is although by the looks of those bite marks, it's pretty big.

I'll keep you posted.

Looking Inside

But why?
Why am I here? Why this? Why now? But why?
Why have I always done community service?
I feel like I’ve answered this question numerous times in essays and for applications. I’m sure each time I’ve come up with some poignant and satisfying answers but I don’t think I actually know why I dedicate so much of my time to community service. I can say a lot of things, uncover a lot of intentions but deep down inside I don’t know why I do it, I just do it.
In Robert Coles book, he interviews a rabbi who said this:
“That is the big risk – the big egos, the self-satisfaction. I warn myself about all the dangers right in front of the kids, and they listen, get the message – sometimes! I try to make it clear that we’re Jews, struggling to live the way our great teachers, our great rabbis, told us we should live, so if we go to help others, how we go matters as much as (maybe more than) what we bring. If we can learn that lesson and take it to heart, we’re at least on the right track.”
So I wonder about my real motivations, because they’re must be some. Just because I cannot clearly define them does not mean they are not clearly there. They will reveal themselves in my actions and words and will affect who I work with and the work I do. So the ‘but why’ question is one that desperately needs to be answered.
In my race, law class last semester I learned a lot about the history of racism in our country and how it permeates so much of our legal, economic and social systems. Not to mention how it is engrained into our way of being and how we interact with others who appear different from us. The class sharpened my critical consciousness, my ability to perceive the injustices in this world. It lit a fire in me, one that made me excited about my new job. I saw it as an opportunity to ‘right the wrongs’ in our society and fight the system from the bottom up, by empowering and uniting people.
But why me?
Why do I have a greater ability to right the wrongs of society in comparison to the people that live in this city and endure its contradictions and ‘injustices’ everyday?
I don’t know is an inappropriate and irresponsible answer because if I don’t know then I should just quit now and start preparing applications for grad school.
My answer than would be, the fist is mightier than the finger. Meaning that more together are more powerful than one. Let’s face it, the world isn’t ‘fair.’ Perfectly willing and capable people are ignored, pushed down and arbitrarily disadvantaged every day. Their one voice is muffled and silenced by systems of injustice and prejudice that not only thrive in our society today but built our country. If I have a voice and I am willing to speak on someone else’s behalf, I must speak. If I have been privileged and can return what I have been given, then I must do that.
There’s no need to get angry at the system, fight the man, help the little people, I just must do what I can.
My service is not only to the Philadelphia community and myself but to the notion of freedom in this country, the belief in equality and the desire in all of us to live fully in this world.

Song: Everyday by Toby Lightman

Quote: What makes us human is not our mind but our heart, not our ability to think but our ability to love. Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Video's that provide other's perspectives on NSP:

snapshot of NSP:

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro's words about NSP:

Jeff Holzberg (Site Coordinator for the NSP-Bronx Office)

Song: What the World Needs Know - Aimee Mann

Quote:Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. Dr. Seuss

Hot Child in the City

Love the city, love your life.
My mom told me this before I left for Philadelphia. I think it's interesting that I've come to the "City of brotherly love." It seems as if I've come to a point in my life where I'm learning to love. Learning to love myself. Learning to love others openly and honestly. Learning to love God through faith in his promises. Learning to love.
In fact, in many ways I have come here to "love" this city through a least a year, possibly two, of dedicated service. I once read somewhere that love is not a feeling but an action, a choice...
I've come to Philadelphia to work with National Student Partnerships. I'll be working as an Americorps National Direct (formerly VISTA) site coordinator. I feel like a robot when I explain my job. Mostly because I can only recite what I know about NSP and my new job from the website. I'm sure these provide accurate descriptions but they just don't feel authentic.
I do know what pulled me to this position. One of the things that I enjoyed most about my time in college was working with other college students and being somewhat of a mentor. I especially loved community service and working hands on in communities. NSP provided all of those opportunities and it just seemed to fit. So here I am.
But seriously.
My service is going to impact many lives, but how. I have now just began to examine the implications of my service on others and myself. What am I doing in Philadelphia is a question which I will need to ask myself everyday.
I've started reading Robert Coles book "The Call of Service." In his introduction he writes "... I had begun to see how complicated this notion of service is, how it is a function not only of what we do but of who we are (which ofcourse gives shape to what we do)."
So in honor of that old quote ,said by some old presumably now dead person, "an unexamined life is not worth living" I've started this blog as a way to publicly examine my first year of service and its effect on myself and those I serve. In addition I hope to elicit support and advice from others who have gone before me or some who may also may be living out their year of service.
Practically, I am writing this blog so I don't have to talk about what I'm doing 400 million times to the 400 million people who will inevitably ask. I can just say, refer to my blog...
Read, inquire and whatever feels right.
In addition to my narratives of my experience I also want to end my blogs with a song that fits the theme of the blog and a quote which I found inspirational. Enjoy.

Song: Hot Child in the City by NickGilder

Quote: I'm trying to live my life from my heart, being authentic to who I am. I'm trying to feel my way to my truth. I do things now that feel real to me. Maria Shriver

With Love,
Ashley Nicole