The End.

It’s Friday night. We are back at Rollins, our last class is over. The story is over, we reached the climax, and we have reached the inevitable resolution.

In our last class, we each made a physical representation of a commitment to action. The commitments ranged from definite to vague, from personal to communal. For me, making a commitment is a huge deal, and if I committed, I will follow through or feel guilty. I decided that homelessness and poverty is such a multifaceted issue that I could not possibly decide how I wanted to tackle it in one 24-hour period. So, I decided that at least once every week, I would spend time researching different solutions to poverty that I can impact in Orlando. My hope is that soon I will be able to make an action plan to make a difference.

As my physical representation, I created a decoration for my dorm room door that I put a new inspirational quote on. This way, I can get in the mindset of serving and inspiring others every day. I know I will not change anything if I do not remind myself every day.

Now, I realize that the resolution is not the conclusion, and I am glad of that. We must make our own change, as opposed to following the plans of our immersion leaders.

“Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing, but it is something you should do on a regular basis.” -Zig Ziglar

 

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

The title of this blog came to me as I was working out tonight after our final immersion meeting.  The song “Closing Time” was playing over the speakers and that lyric stuck with me through the rest of my time in the weight room.  Sitting down to write this now, I realize how great of a lyric it is and how it couldn’t apply any better than to the experience I just had.  Now that the beginning of my immersion experience has come to an end, it is now my turn to experience a new beginning.  One with all the lessons I’ve learned applied to their full potential.

Our final meeting tonight and our presentations solidified my love for this week and the people I experienced it with.  Coming in, I knew around half the people taking part in this immersion experience.  Today I can confidently say that I have a lasting connection with each and every one of the people I worked with this week.  Not only that, but I feel that we will continue to share our relationships in an attempt to better conditions for those suffering in poverty and homelessness.  That, to me, is the greatest achievement our group has achieved.

Our dinner tonight consisted of some salad and black bean soup.  The real substance we received, however, came from each other’s presentations and discussion.  Every single person in this group brought something new to the table, just as they had done every day this week.  We all came in with different perspectives on the topics of homelessness and poverty and we all found our own ways to go ahead with attempting to rectify the situation. As we popcorned taking turns around the table, it was amazing to see how much thought and heart people had put into their project ideas.  From making bracelets to raise money for those in need to making personal plans to make a difference, we each put forth ideas on how to create change.  My personal favorite was the fact that I could take home some of these items for myself.

Although I don’t mind that this will be my last blog post, I am very sad to see this week come to an end.  The relationships I made with these amazing people and the help that we provided this week will stay with me forever.  I will truly miss everyone that I spent this week with.  My ignorance on the topic of homelessness and poverty isn’t completely gone, but it is now at a level at which I can attempt to educate others on the issues.  As I said in my earlier post, I now know what I want to do with my life.

 

The end of the beginning

A few months back, a group of students and I decided to do an event in our freshman dorm where we would ask our peers how their day was going.  We stationed ourselves in the lobby with a sign for nearly a whole week, asking every person who walked by.  Surprisingly, many people thought we were playing a practical joke on them or just didn’t answer.  More often than not, instead of answering they would ask us what we were doing, why we were doing it, etc.  As the week went on, Many of our classmates began to sit down and answer us, but there were still the few who would almost break into a sprint to try and get away.  Eventually we stopped (to much relief), but I’ve never forgotten how uncomfortable some of my fellow students were. This week, we heard firsthand how invisible and ignored those suffering from poverty feel, and I can’t help but thinking that what I observed is another example of the greater cultural problem.  In this day and age, people tend to ignore those around them, unless they have some sort of importance to them  We forget that every one of us has a story, just as important and meaning full as our own.

One of the most valuable things we learned this week, was the impact of acknowledging another human being, showing them respect and giving them worth.To the homeless this is extremely important, because in their eyes, our attention shows them that we still see them as human beings.  Tonight, I saw such acknowledgment from our group as we all exchanged ideas of how to best combat the problems of poverty and homelessness.  Although it was our final meeting of this immersion experience, if anything it felt like the beginning of another journey.  This experience lit in each one of us a fire to serve our communities and better our fellow man, and it showed in each commitment.  It was in Scott’s poem that moved so many of us, in Courtney’s hopeful quotes that smelled so good.  I saw it in Michaela’s painting which spoke to the needs of the poor, and in Becca’s bracelets which serve as a reminder for us all of what we learned.  So I am not sad, but excited now that the week is over.  We have so much potential to make positive social change, and after hearing from my fellow change-makers I know we are up for the challenge.  This is Ian Seddon.  Here’s to the future.

I Am Somebody

“The first question is whether we know exactly what to do. What problems do we have the skills to solve, and where do our skills reach their outer limits?…The second question is whether we have the will to exercise our skill. Would we spend the money, make the sacrifices, restructure the hierarchy…to alleviate the hardships down below?” -David Shipler, The Working Poor

 

Tonight I feel illuminated.

As a trip like this ends, the volunteer work is over, the roof is built- it would be easy to simply leave it all behind by saying, “That was an impactful but now it’s done.” It would be difficult and completely different to instead commit to changing a part of your lifestyle for the better of others. Tonight, I witnessed 13 bright and intelligent young people make a commitment to do just that. The word “inspired” would not do justice to how I feel.

Each trip participant prepared a presentation with a personal mission of what they would do from here on out to continue to make a difference in an area they feel passionate about. Some people created poems of hope and signed up to volunteer with a local nonprofit in the community. Others made creative art pieces to represent their experience this week, which will be placed in their rooms as daily reminders of what they can do each day to create positive impact. Five participants teamed up to make personalized bracelets that read, “Raise the Roof,” which will be sold on campus to raise money for the Coalition and other organizations. Becca also created bracelets in the color of purple- the homelessness awareness color. I was completely blown away but the depth at which each person created their commitment.

My new bracelets- the beaded one displays my initials

When it was finally my turn to go, I presented an idea I have been working on for quite some time. This semester, I am launching a program called Rollins Service Mentors (I am trying to come up with a more creative title however!), which will enable Rollins students to become mentors to high school students who are interested in creating service projects or starting organizations. The thought behind this is young people have wonderful ideas and energy, but they typically lack the guidance or resources to put their ideas into to action. When faced with the plethora of problems in the world, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and hopeless. However, with the support of a mentor, youth can become empowered to make a difference. Just think of what can happen if young people unite to support each other- we can truly change the world.

Presenting my commitment

I am so excited about this project, and I feel confident that with the help of my Rollins Family, including my new family from this trip, this project will be a success that will reach many lives. Please check out my Rollins Service Mentors Action Plan to learn more!!!

I cannot speak volumes enough to the degree with which this experience as well as the Rollins Immersion program as a whole has impacted me. Through my participation in these experiences, I have been able to discover my true passions and place at Rollins and beyond. When considering Rollin’s mission to nurture “responsible leaders and global citizens,” I cannot think of a program that does better justice to this statement than the Immersion program. I now feel empowered to go out into the world to do well AND good. As Dr. Jane Goodall, one of my biggest role models, always says, “Every individual matters. Every individual can make a difference.”

I am somebody. And I can make a difference.

 

Cheers,
Bethany

My Act of Commitment

In my first blog entry, I wrote about how hopeless I felt after reading The Working Poor. Homelessness seemed like an impossibly gargantuan problem, and I did not know how to become a part of the solution. But after this week, and especially after hearing everyone’s Acts of Commitment at dinner tonight, I look towards the future with a smile.

My own Act of Commitment is to become a regular volunteer at the Zebra Coalition. For those who don’t know, the Zebra Coalition is a local organization in Orlando that focuses on homeless LGBT youth. They provide many services, including temporary or permanent shelter, clothing, food, and medical/counseling services. I know that groups at Rollins have partnered with the Zebra Coalition in the past, so I also want to look into what groups like Spectrum and the Rollins College Democrats can do to help this organization. I am excited to take a more active stance on the issue of homelessness and to further my involvement in the LGBT community.

In order to remind myself of everything I have learned in this short week, I wrote a poem, which I will post as my final blog entry.

This class, as you can probably tell by now, has been like no other class I have taken in that I have never learned so many vital lessons in a single week. I want to thank everyone who went on this immersion experience for being so kind, accepting, open, insightful, and just plain awesome. I’ve learned a ton from hearing about your views and reading your own blog posts, and I wish you all the best in the coming semester.

Project presentations in the President’s Dining Room.

Now, for one last story.

As I was walking out of the President’s Dining Room, one of the people said he’d like to volunteer with me when I go to the Zebra Coalition. I admit I was a little surprised, since in the “Crossing the Line” activity we did on Monday, he did not cross the line on the question about gays having the right to marry. We talked for a bit as I walked by to my dorm, and he explained that he thought being gay should be a nonissue. He also happens to be a Republican, which made me respect him even more for breaking away from a popular opinion that a group he’s a part of holds. I remember writing in my first blog post that in order for social initiatives to be successful, they need to transcend the too often divisive lines of politics, and this short conversation further confirms that idea.

I know this last story doesn’t relate directly to homelessness. But in a way, this whole week has been about erasing the lines that stop us from seeing each other as human beings. Whether Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, we all have an inherent dignity that is visible if only we take the time to look.

 

 

An End to Begin

This experience has taught me a lot about people and myself. Before this trip I was somewhat aware of the homeless situation but I had not done anything more than give a few dollars to a homeless person on the street. I was told from childhood to not bother with giving money because they would just waste it on booze or they were too dangerous for me to engage with because I am just a girl. I learned that the only way for people in homelessness and poverty to move out of where they are now is for people like me to recognize them for what they truely are. People. They are just like me, and do not deserve to be treated like dirt, or worst, not seen at all.

Shay told us about a time when she would ask GW, a leader for the National Coalition for the Homeless in St. Petersburg, for $30 to sleep in a hotel room then later use it to buy drugs to statisfy her addition. She said it didn’t matter how many times she asked him, or the fact that he knew what she was using it for, he still gave her the money because he knew she needed it. So when she reached her turning point, it was GW sho gave her the money to turn her life around and actually seek treatment. When all others gave up on her, she had GW, who was also homeless at a point in his life, who still believed in her. I don’t want to give up hope.

I struggled with my final project because I didn’t want to jump back into the sea and be submerged in the reoccuring waves of school, television, and wasted time. To let this be another fleeting experience would be to forget about the people I had met and the people I had seen. It would be an insult to them, and the many others stuck on the shore. I want to grab onto as many shells as I can and tell them that they are beautiful, and they are worthy. I can see them, and will not ignore them.

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Namaste.

Much of what I have written about is discovering the power that love, respect, and acknowledgment offered by a stranger can have on a fellow human being. Thus, in crafting my action plan, I wanted to commit myself to offering those three values and more to everyone. Using my background with yoga (we end every practice often with inspirational quotes, and always with “Namaste,” which translates roughly to “I bow to you”), I crafted a list of warming sentences and wrote them on little lavender cards. I attached these cards to some herbs (scents have a remarkable power on the psyche) such as lavender and rosemary, and will have a few of these with me at all times. This way, I can brighten anyone’s day if I feel they need a little pick-me-up. I plan to attach these cards to other things beyond plants, such as an apple, protein bar, or bus pass, and will always try to keep a stash in my car and on my person.

The other part of my action plan was a commitment to fund at least one micro loan per month, and began my first today. I have been meaning to partake in KIVA, the international micro lending organization, for far too long now, and finally decided that it was about time I shared some of my financial prosperity with others. An El Salvadorian lady trying to expand her tamale business is $25 closer to her full loan, and can be even closer if you and others donate. Check out www.KIVA.org to make a loan yourself!

I have complete faith that the world is headed in the right direction. I have interacted with so many wonderful souls this past week as fellow participants, Habitat employees, and bright, shining children reminded me that life itself is joy. This immersion experience pushed homelessness to the top of my list, and I am thrilled to moving along the spectrum from member, to volunteer, to eventually, active citizen. Please join me in the fight against poverty! And don’t forget to smile!

“I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”

 

 

 

A New Day A New Perspective

Today was definitely what I would consider bittersweet. Waking up should have been easier than the days before, but instead it was much more difficult even though it was 3 hours later. Once my roommate and I, Chelsea, were able to lift ourselves from our bed I concluded that it had been so hard because we genuinely did not want to leave. The experience, the people, and the bed had all been way too good to be true and we were dismayed to leave it all behind.
After we collected ourselves we packed up and headed for Crackle Barrel, where we shared one last meal in St Pete. Breakfast was great as usual and the conversation was lighthearted and a much needed relief from the shockingly serious and heartbreaking events of the intercession. After filling up on laughs, eggs, and (for some people) bottles of maple syrup, we headed back to Rollins to get ready for our day that would be spent at the Coalition for the Homeless. Listening to the same music play on the same stations, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be doing so. The scenery was spectacular and better than anything I could ever wish for, and I was headed for a campus that looked like a kingdom to most people. With so much at my fingertips, I felt that I had nothing less than an obligation to utilize it all. Ideas were flying through my head about just exactly how I would do so, and before I knew it we were back at Mills Lawn. I wrote the ideas on my phone quickly, and then headed to my room to get ready for our trip to the Coalition.
The trip to the Coalition was much different than what I expected it to be. I had never in my life seen so much poverty. The life seemed to be sucked out of the men and women standing like statues in front of what our advisers pointed out to be the Coalition. Inside however, we came in contact with much more upbeat and energized women and children. We spent hours talking and making jewelry with them and we even went 45 minutes over the time we were allotted. While there, everyone in our group really surprised me. The boys were so great with the women and made things that I don’t think half of us girls could have done. No pun intended, they really stepped up to the plate and it really impressed and warmed my heart to watch. I am so thankful to be apart of such a loving group and was so happy to be able to meet the women I did today. After hearing their stories, and sharing in their tears, I promised myself I would continue to do all I could do to help them. I talked to the woman whom had directed our tour and I discussed plans for future visits and other activities we could do for the women at the Coalition. I am so excited to visit again, but I am so saddened to think about what these women will be battling until we are able to return.

Nature vs. Nurture

I don’t know if I want to be a mother. Most girls really want to, but I’m not so sure. I am pretty ambitious, and sometimes (though I would never admit it to a mother) raising a child doesn’t seem challenging enough for me. I mean, if it is difficult, then why can everyone do it?

These thoughts came to the forefront of my brain when we arrived at the Coalition for the Homeless in Orlando.We toured thebuilding and then led a jewelry making class for the mothers and kids of the shelter. Somehow, two other friends and I were summoned to the on-site daycare center.

If you want an insight into my personality, I am pretty patient with caring for children, although sometimes I get mildly annoyed when they beg to play board games I know they won’t understand and then I will have to clean up. Whenever I am with children, I am always so impressed by they are just little sponges who soak up everything. When I was very little, I remember sitting with my dad as he watched a scary movie because he thought I was too young to remember or understand any of it. I mean, who remembers much below the age of three?

While we worked, I tried to gain insight into these children’s lives outside of the Coalition’s daycare. For me, I have to try to understand why a child’s personality was formed that to be able to be patient and pardon them for the selfish, childish things that they do. Two of the girls were the same age–three–but had completely different personalities. The one that required more of my patience was unskilled at conveying what she wanted. The other girl could talk to us and answer our questions, but the first girl would not even show stimulation when I, or anyone, tried to talk to her. She spoke a little, but it was mostly indiscernible as she spoke to the toys she would play with.

While we were pretending to feed her baby doll, she suddenly started getting really flustered and angry and ripping off the baby’s clothes while screaming, “No pee clothes! No pee clothes!” She then proceeded with the play kitchen spatula to spank the baby as hard as she could while still screaming. I tried telling her that we do not treat babies that way, and eventually she calmed down.

I remember this part of caring for the children most vividly because it made me stop and think. Children really are sponges, and when they are so young everything they do or even say they are just repeating from something they saw or experienced. I realized that this little girl had most likely experienced many things that she did not deserve, and that shook me.

 

A majority of people love helping and playing with kids more than adults. Maybe it is because they are cute, and they don’t judge conversation so harshly. For me though, I always underestimate the importance of helping a person when they are a child. Sometimes, it is almost as they don’t count as people in my mind because they don’t have mature conversations. I tend to think, like my dad would when we watched television, that they won’t remember much that happens when they are little, so it won’t affect who they become. After helping out with the children at the coalition, I realize that is completely wrong. Sure, I don’t remember being three, but when I was four I did. And similarly, when I was five, I sure remember what happened to me when I was four, and that affected my own personality. And now, raising a child doesn’t seem so easy anymore.