Sunday, April 29, 2012

Far-ranging activities in the name of Service

This past week’s range of activities is part of why I love my job:
Saturday: Led a retreat for a local Meeting on Core Truths and Radical Hospitality. It was a day that brought together a collection of experiences and resources with the real-life challenges of seeing how difficult it is to walk the talk.
Sunday: Helped to register and disassemble 25 bicycles donated for Bikes for the World
Monday: Attended the White House Office of Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships press briefing in honor of Earth Day. The majority of people I met this day were folks from evangelical and Christian colleges, not the usual list of cohorts we liberals expect to see at events supporting our causes. But, as I have learned from the years I lived in Wheaton, IL, the commonality of being human is far greater than the differences we may have. We just have to trust it. Thanks to Jose Aguto from FCNL for including me.
Tuesday: Started with a visit to an elderly couple about 10 blocks southeast of William Penn House to assess their request for help with some home renovation and security projects that we will do with groups that come during the summer. Later, a radio interview with a Chicago news radio program about the rationale behind planning the symposiums in Illinois called “HIV Self-Testing: Opportunities, Issues and Ethics.” Pieces of the interview aired throughout that evening and the following day. I also had a phone meeting with the manufacturers of rapid HIV-tests as preparation for giving oral comments at the upcoming FDA community hearings on self-testing for HIV.
Wednesday: A supposed day-off but still ended up in the office putting up pictures of Workcamps on the hall bulletin board so people can see the range of Workcamp activities.
Thursday: Took a small group of 8th grade students from a Quaker school to do some service work for an elderly woman. Weeding, planting, cutting hedges – the little things that bring joy to this woman. As importantly, this group did in a few hours what would have taken the daughter of this woman upwards of a week to do, freeing the daughter to care for her mother and do what she does best – advocate for affordable housing in the DC community. We need to do all we can to help keep people like this out using their gifts in the world to benefit all people.
Friday: Started the morning attending a breakfast and daily reflection at a local church. The majority of attenders at this grassroots community ritual are homeless men and women. It is an inspiring example of compassion and love that flows through a warm meal and a handshake. The 8th grade students joined us. The evening was spent welcoming 12 seniors in high school from China who checked into William Penn House at about 8:30PM. These are high-achieving students on a tour of the US, and will be doing a few hours of community service with us over the weekend. This was capped off with a great conversation with a “seasoned” Friend who had been staying at WPH for a few days while attending meetings with FCNL. We compared notes on advocacy, youth leadership, spirituality, opportunities, action and service. This is a conversation that will continue.
From getting dirty with 13-year olds to greasy while taking bikes apart to being on the radio to being at a White House briefing, interspersed with planning for West Virginia and South Dakota Workcamps and dealing with other issues that arise, this is why I love the work that I do.  This list doesn't include the meetings with book authors, Tahrir Square organizers, and the countless others who come through our doors to lobby, do service, deepen their faith, or simply visit the city.  For me, all these things are connected. They are about finding one's truth while learning to listen to others. They are a part of a passion for making a difference in the world and creating opportunities for others to find they voice, while also struggling to articulate how all this is connected. Is it making a difference? I hope so.

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