Each one of us has a mission here on Earth


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I had a feeling that being a part of community would be second nature to me.  But my sense of community was challenged this year in ways that made me question my expectations and my assumptions of how communities function, what is important to them, and what it means to be an active member of a community. 

My year of service drew me into several communities – the Religious of the Assumption, my small group of fellow volunteers, Kids Kabin, and Walker (my neighborhood in Newcastle). A majority of my time was spent at Kids Kabin where I was reminded constantly that people become a part of community by giving them the chance to participate in ways they can contribute their best. This was apparent from the start when our manager, Will, asked us volunteers which responsibilities we wanted to take charge of this year instead of assigning them at random. When we were training or learning a new skill, we were taught by jumping right into the challenge without fear of making mistakes. That feeling of being hands-on and being able to form the way things get done at Kids Kabin, made us feel like we fit in with the rest of the staff right away.

This mentality was important to model to the kids, as well. When we were showing the kids how to do something, like hammering a nail or mixing paint, we often had an urge to do it for them. But we had to resist and allow the kids to have a go themselves. If it wasn’t working one way, we encouraged them to figure it out a different way or guide them without taking control. When someone learned a skill, they continued to grow their community circle by showing a newer or younger member what they mastered. They started understanding that the basics of a community start with allowing people to participate in ways that utilize their strengths.

I’m sure I was helpful and effective in my work in the earlier days of my program, but there is a transformation in the difference you make when your motivations are truly rooted in the community. In the beginning, I wanted to do well leading sessions basically to show that I could do a good job because that was what I was there for. Over time as I got to know the kids better, I wanted to have great sessions because I wanted them to make the most of their time at Kids Kabin. I saw how it gave them access to creative resources that they craved. I saw that the kind of art, friendships, and learning they built and received at Kids Kabin were helping them overcome struggles in their lives and build their confidence. They were given a new chance to succeed and I wanted to make sure they could see that.