Our week at national orientation was one where I was challenged. I was challenged to really think about my place in the world and how that affects others while also being immersed in a community of almost complete strangers. I would spend a week in conversation and community with these strangers before dispersing across the world. I had the opportunity to enter a courageous space where I trusted that I could be honest about my thoughts, contribute to discussions, and hear the honest thoughts of this new community. Through this space, my eyes were further opened to the parts of my life that have had negative impacts on our large family in every corner of the world. I felt deep pain for this family. But I was challenged to take ownership of this pain and to allow it to guide my actions throughout this next year.
With all of this on my mind, our group of YAVs embarked on a day in New York City. At the beginning of the day we split into our small groups of approximately 8 YAVs and a YAV alum that are serving or did serve in different places around the world. We were given just enough money for a round trip metro ticket and $5 for lunch per person. At the beginning of our day we were sent to Riverside Church in Morningside Heights. I was in awe of the beauty of the space. I took a moment to sit quietly with the conversations of the week. Soon enough I felt somewhat overwhelmed with the weight of these experiences and prepared to stand up to walk around the sanctuary in order to look at the stained glass and other beautiful aspects of the space while physically moving away from discomfort. Then I noticed the large banners that gracefully hung from the high ceiling and how they gently swayed back and forth. I felt a message that said, “Be still. Take a breath.” I stayed planted in my pew. I took a deep breath in and let it out. I sat with the weight of how my life led to that exact moment and how privileged I was to be there. I listened, was still, and did not worry with what the next step was, what we would find for lunch, or what else I needed to do. I took time to mourn the harm that has been done through our society that I could at least wrap my head around and thought about what I may not have even been able to conceptualize in that moment. This made time for me to allow myself to process these thoughts instead of just recognizing them. It gave me a chance to slow down and think. But not the kind of thinking that is stressful and leads to to-do lists. This was the kind of contemplative thinking that leads to personal change and growth.
This was a moment I want to hold on to and to remember throughout this year. This was a moment of deep sadness, processing, and realization. This was a moment made possible by not squirming away from discomfort and by being still and taking a deep breath. I think that it will be important for me to remember this at times when I may feel overwhelmed throughout this year. I need to make sure that I am taking time to reflect on my experiences and really think and process them instead of only recognizing them.
After this transitory week in Stony Point, we took a train to Boston where we have had a second week of orientation on a local level. We Boston Food Justice YAVs (BFJYAVs) spend the week working on adjusting to this new step by getting to know each other, visiting each other’s site placements, getting a 360 view of our foodshed and watershed, having our first experience with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a city scavenger hunt, learning how to cook and grocery shop together, and late(ish) night time furniture moving sessions. You can keep scrolling to see photo evidence of some of these exciting experiences. We are growing in community and are looking forward to a year in this new city and all of the stressors and excitement that come with this transition!