First of all I owe all of you, my PHPC family a massive thank you for sending me out to Atlanta to serve as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV for short). And a big thank you to all of my donors. My year as a YAV has been filled with many trials, adventures, and joy’s, this year has truly changed my life. As my time working at Mercy Community Church in Atlanta, a church for folks struggling with homelessness, is coming to a close, I have been feeling nostalgic and reflecting on the year. And I wanted to share some of what I have learned.
Some of you know, the big reason I became a YAV was to answer the question of “Where is God calling me in life?” Tall order, I know… However through much discerning through this past year I feel I have a much better idea of where that path is. My gifts and passions are leading me to either continue to work with the marginalized groups of the world through social work. Or to empower our youth to find their own voice in the struggles of adolescents and to inspire them to live by the gospel through youth ministry.
On my first day at Mercy Church, I met a woman who struggled with her mental health and came in and out of lucidness. Most of the time her reality was different than my own, but I could tell she wanted me to listen. When she came to she told me usually she is disregarded and ignored, and that she greatly appreciated me just being there and listening. Those few moments have taught me so much… Half of the battle for anyone, experiencing anything is just being there… being present with them. Whether they are struggling with depression, grief, or poverty, just be present with them, and listen even if you don't understand. It is one of the greatest signs of love you can show to someone.
Another day, I overheard one of the members of our congregation say “Mercy is the only place I can go and be looked at in the eye…” Those words struck me like a brick wall… Then I thought about my own daily life and how most people look at me. This moment taught me a lot about my own privilege and I reflected on this for quite some time. Everyday, I can expect to be looked in the eye by most of whom I come across. I can find water when I am thirsty. Everyday I can voice my opinion and know that I am heard. That day it struck me, that a lot of my friends on the street do not have those same experiences and privileges.
One question that has been asked of me a few times throughout the year was to explain my blog title (which for anyone who’s read it, I am sorry there are so few posts…) “The Breath of Life is Whisperings of Love” Which to me encompasses how I believe little acts of love can change the world. Mahatma Gandhi said, “in a gentle way, you can shake the world!” and I believe that gentleness he was talking about was that of love. The gentle act of being present for someone, the gentle act of looking someone in the eye with a smile, or the gentle act of being a voice for the voiceless.
The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) Program is a national program of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The YAV Program is a faith-based year of service for young people, ages 19-30, in 22 sites around the world and in the United States. YAVs accompany local agencies working to address root causes of poverty and reconciliation while exploring the meaning and motivation of their faith in intentional community with peers and mentors. For more information or to apply, check out www.pcusa.org/yav