When I landed at Newark last Monday for a week of orientation I was excited. I knew that I was going to be spending a week at Stony Point Conference Center and I would be meeting most of the other YAV’s for this year. I was told that we would have time to go into New York City but I was not given specifics. All in all, there was a lot of uncertainty about the week. If only I had really known how eye opening the orientation would be.
I arrived at Stony Point at around 7:30 P.M. with a traveling group that I had met at the airport. We arrived right as worship was beginning and had missed dinner. Luckily the YAV staff is wonderful and had saved some food for us. Jumping into worship wasn’t difficult because of the week of discernment in April in Little Rock. Having been at the discernment event also let me meet several of the YAV’s early. There was a sentiment spoken during worship that really stood out to me, “you are not needed”. After worship, we spent the rest of the evening getting to know each other and conversing
Tuesday and Wednesday were especially intense as we spent a large amount of the time talking about racism and the lenses with which we view the world. We had an in-depth conversation about the privilege that many of us at orientation have and being mindful as we go into communities with different perspectives than what we are accustomed to. We then had the opportunity to go to New York to bring home everything we had been discussing. This was the first time I had ever been to NYC and I had wanted to do a few things that I had thought of as part of the essential New York experience. Instead, we went to different parts of the city walking through the neighborhoods, giving us a chance to get a small glance of the lives of the people living there.
My group went to Jamaica Queens, armed with only five dollars each for lunch. As we were walking on Hillside Street we were truly able to see the impact that we had just by walking through the neighborhood. People were getting out of our way as we were traveling through their neighborhood, which was giving me a real uneasy feeling. We then walked a few blocks down to Jamaica Street, and what a difference in atmosphere. Jamaica Street is in the process of becoming a travel hub due to its proximity to the JFK Airport. This has had some drastic changes in the community as this has given a reason for chains of restaurants and shops to move into the area, as opposed to Hillside which still consist of mostly small businesses. You can tell by the building that apartments and local businesses has been swept aside for the new developments.
Having seen the impact that I had on this community I started to truly realize what my impact on my new community might be. One of the main focuses of the YAV program is to live in an intentional community, but what does that really mean? How do I come into this new community with fresh eyes and the desire to learn as opposed to impose the cultural tendencies that I have devolved over a lifetime of soaking it all in? That was the moment that I realized that I just am not ready for this year, but that was one of the points. I came into this program with so many thoughts about what I have the opportunity do here that I didn’t truly think about what this year would do to me. Here I am only a week in and yet I’ve already challenged myself on a fundamental level.
As I sit here writing this, my mind is still going a million miles an hour with all of the possibilities this year has in store. I am currently writing this sitting in the back of an airplane during a fifteen-hour flight to South Africa before I take another plane to Zambia. I am not ready for this year and that is okay, in fact, I think it would be a bigger issue if I was ready. So ready or not, here I come!
I have since landed in Zambia. I want to spend some time to truly take in the country before I post my next blog. What that means is my next post will probably be up in a week. Thank you to everyone for your support and prayers,