What I Did On My Summer Vacation…
“So, what are you going to be up to this summer?” was the friendly, only slightly curious question of friends and family as my freshman year came to a close.
“Oh, I’ll be working at a homeless services center in Charlotte,” was the vague, only slightly knowledgeable answer I gave in response.
The reactions would range from surprise to confusion to excitement, but usually settled on “Well, that’ll be interesting!” And looking back, I think that is the only thought that came to my mind as I prepared to be a part of the Stapleton-Davidson Urban Service Internship. All I knew about my summer at the Urban Ministry Center was that it would surely be interesting.
I never could have expected the sheer chaos of my Monday morning check-in on my first day on the job. I was bombarded with questions that I hadn’t a slightest clue how to answer, and lots of angry neighbors who could tell I didn’t know what was going on. And I never could have expected that I would be leaving the Urb with the ability to walk up and down the check-in line and answer questions on the fly.
I never could have expected the amazing team that I have been able to work with. The staff here has gone above and beyond in making me feel welcomed, affirmed, and loved. They have walked me through learning the ins and outs of the Urb, and guided me through my many, many missteps. I have watched them function as an amazing unit, with every single member dedicated to helping and respecting every neighbor that walks into our center, and making sure that meeting their needs is at the heart of every action. I look up to the staff here, not just because of what they do, but because of who they are. They are people I admire and have learned so much from, and have had an unbelievable impact on my life.
I never could have expected the deep and lasting relationships that I have made with neighbors. The neighbors I have met have stretched me beyond my comfort zone, and have challenged me to truly understand homelessness and to meet people exactly where they are. I saw lives at the Urban Ministry Center change, fortunes reversed, hopes and dreams realized. I built relationships of trust and respect and love with neighbors, and though they don’t know and can’t know it, I am indebted to them for changing who I am.
This summer has been filled with challenge, and yet, because of the challenges not in spite of them, I can experience real joy. I can laugh with Dexter when he mocks my stupidity, and feel Vivian’s pain about the bus schedule. I smile whenever Bobashei smiles, and my face lights up whenever Miss Loretta calls my name as I walk up the front steps. I laugh and laugh when Michelle escorts me to the front door, and tells every neighbor that we’re “a thing”. I get uncontrollably happy when James tells me he’s gotten his medications covered for another two months, and feel a deep sense of pride when Brian tells me that all the bus passes I’ve given him have lead to a steady job.
I am only just beginning to realize what an amazing opportunity the Urban Ministry Center gave me this summer. I am so grateful to have been a part of this experience, and will never be able to thank everyone enough for these ten weeks. I know that this has been an internship that I will never forget.
That is what I did on my summer vacation. And I wouldn’t have spent it any other way.
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