The summer before heading to Alabama, I continued to be actively involved with the youth group, slowly becoming more comfortable in that role. We went to a big conference that summer in Atlanta. There were various talks throughout the weekend but then our group broke up into smaller groups for discussion. Leading and facilitating these discussions always made me nervous.
Being with the youth group was awesome and challenging. I gave a few talks and eventually lead some small group discussions. The talks were scary and I was certainly nervous the whole time, but I got up there and I did it. A few people made a pointed effort to thank me for sharing, no matter how raw the delivery was.
What I enjoyed most was being part of this community, having the opportunity to be involved in some way. I was learning more about my faith, and seeing it in action meant everything. I really reveled in the teens’ enthusiasm.
I had known this woman for many years. She was my P.E. teacher when I was in grade school and always involved in school activities.
During the summer before I left for California, I had helped in small ways with the youth group. It was something to do and a way to be involved. I enjoyed being with this group, but I didn’t have high hopes that I was actually able to offer more than chaperoning assistance.
Yet when I returned from Los Angeles, the youth minister approached me and invited me to join her team. I know I hesitated, wondering if she was asking the right person. So there was a compromise. She invited me to check out the regular Sunday night program. No strings attached. I could come, see for myself, and join or choose to walk away.
Note: This is part three of a three-part description of my first journalism assignment. You can read part one here, where I show how God answered my prayer to guide me in the right direction. You can read part two here, describing how God lead me to the people I needed to speak with.
Help me know what to do
There was a Mass bright and early Saturday morning. I was running on fumes at that point, just a few hours of sleep, but I was excited about what the day would bring. I still felt convinced I needed to speak to more people, so as people were leaving I tried to pick out approachable people and ask why they were involved in advocating for life.
Note: This is part two of a three-part description of my first journalism assignment, covering the Walk for Life in San Francisco. You can read part one here, where I show how God answered my prayer to guide me in the right direction.
Lead me to the people I need to speak with
Instead of staying at a hotel, I was able to lodge with other members of Sister Paula’s religious community. Sister Anne showed me to my room for the night where I unloaded my stuff. Friday night’s agenda meant attending an interfaith prayer service followed by a trip to a different church offering all-night adoration. My goal was to talk to a few participants. Since the rally and Walk for Life weren’t until Saturday morning, I left behind my interview notes and questions for those speakers. No sense in bringing everything with me.
This is the detailed version of one of the most incredible, pivotal moments of my life. An experience where I can truly see God working through me rather than it being on my own accord. I’ve shared pieces of it to people in talks and different ways, but this includes everything. It’s a long write-up, so I’ve broken it up into three parts. I’ll share part two tomorrow and part three on Friday.
By January 2007, I had been volunteering with The Tidings for about 3 full months. I learned about the third annual Walk for Life, a similar event to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., but this would be in San Francisco. I asked the publisher of the paper if the San Francisco event is something they planned to cover. I told him I was interested in being part of the experience. Maybe to help out in some way.
One of the first big lessons I learned during my time in Los Angeles was the purpose and value of work. All work matters. Some positions may be more glamorous than others, but when it joins together it all has a purpose. Some roles are more public while others happen behind the scenes where fewer see the details. Every position is needed.
What’s more, this revelation came while I was earning $100 a month. It wasn’t about how much I made. It was about doing my best, being challenged. It meant doing some tasks that felt small at the time but would eventually serve as a powerful foundation for bigger jobs. If you feel like a particular task is menial and not worth doing, take a step back and see how your contribution fits in with the bigger picture.
Yes, I applied to two volunteer programs that would have taken me far away from the comforts of my familiar South Carolina home where I was used to being a few hours away from family, but neither seemed very scary. It also didn’t seem like I was taking much of a risk. But I think mostly that was because I didn’t really feel like there was an option. Since I didn’t want to teach, what choice did I really have? Well, I guess I overlooked the real possibility of simply staying home with my parents and finding some retail job as a short term fix. But that didn’t seem like an option either. It was time to get out in the world.
But another reason moving far away didn’t seem like too big of a deal was because it wouldn’t be a permanent move. These would be a one-year commitment. Plus, there was the promise of living with a community of people who had the same goals and shared the same faith. I found comfort in that.
I finished college in four years. That wasn’t necessarily viewed as a major accomplishment. It was an expectation. You go to college and get a degree. There’s nothing extraordinary in that. And at this point in my life accomplishments required doing extraordinary things. Talk about setting the bar result high for yourself!
There were some students who were really engaged, some that did as instructed, and some that questioned the relevance of an assignment but eventually complied. None of these students openly defied authority or the purpose of school. So the second semester of student-teaching was indeed far better.
My mentor teacher was warm and inviting and organized! She had high expectations for her ninth-graders while finding creative ways to make group collaborations more fun. It was wonderful to be with a teacher who wanted to challenge her students and see them grow! With about thirty years of experience, she had plenty of wisdom to share.