We Are Fam-i-ly

February 23, 2010

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the idea of family. As I move forward through the world, my family is my net. I try new things and I take risks, and every once in a while I fall, and there they are the whole time, ready to catch me, helping to make the fall a little less painful. As I think of family, a variety of different people come to my mind. Yes, while my mother and father, my two sisters, these are my family members, something makes me think that the concept of a family stretches much further than simply one individual nuclear community.

As I travel new places and meet new people my family grows larger and larger. Suddenly I look around and realize that I have a global group of the most beautiful people ever whom I get to be in mutually supportive relationships with.

As I think about this idea of family, I consider how it applies to the life of an immigrant or refugee. I think about what it might mean to leave my family emergently, or have no choice as to where I live or how often I will be able to communicate with my loved ones. I wonder what it would be like to try and build a family in a place where I didn’t know the language, where I wasn’t familiar with the culture. These thoughts push me forward as I contemplate my current living situation.

I live in the same house as people who have had to, very suddenly, leave their countries, families, homes, and possessions behind.  I get to be a family member to people that have had to leave their loved ones. How am I participating as a member of the Reservoir Hill House of Peace family? I consider this to be an increasingly important question that I must interact with and continue to ask myself each day.

Today I encourage you to reflect: in what way ware you a family member to others in your community?

Lentan Refugees

February 22, 2010

This is very cool. Two Lutheran pastors from First Lutheran Church in Blooming Prairies, MN seek to raise awareness on the situation of refugees worldwide by living out of a quickly packed suitcase for 40 days and 40 nights. Read and follow their journey at http://lentenrefugee.wordpress.com/.

Snowing In Baltimore City

February 9, 2010

Snow at my house is quite the adventure. Our back yard consists of a HUGE parking lot that in the snow takes 15 people about 20 hours working in shifts of two to see the bottom of.

While my current attitude is quite pessimistic regarding the heavier-than-it-looks white powder along with the reappearance of excessive precipitation, I will admit that at FIRST it was pretty fun to be in a house with people from all over the world who have quite the varying opinions and levels of experience with snow. A fellow Pacific North Westerner housemate and I proclaimed boldly that snow belongs in the mountains. You should be able to drive both to and from it. Snow at home is unacceptable.

Some are excited about snow, as they have never seen it before. Others are hesitant and do not like it, staying indoors and looking outside proclaiming, “You are crazy!” when they see others on the road.

Regardless of opinions, every single house member has done a ridiculous deal of shoveling, providing time for bonding with both the snow, as well as each other.

(note: unfortunately I was unable to take any photos, as no cameras were permitted to be at this event.)

It began Monday evening. After work in Baltimore I hopped on a MARC commuter train and rode it down to Washington D.C. There I attended a training to be an usher at the 58th Annual National Prayer Breakfast. I sat in a sea of suits and ties, hearing about the history and story that is the National Prayer Breakfast. As the meeting finished, I left feeling excited and looking towards Thursday morning with great anticipation.

Late Wednesday night, I found myself sleeping on a couch in the California Suite of the Washington Hilton. A friend of a friend’s parents helped secure me a place to sleep. I laid there thinking about the next morning. I set my alarm for 4:30am, and prepared myself to begin the day at 5am.

The next morning was full of reunions. A few very good friends of mine flew in from various different locations around the world. Together we spent the morning greeting national and world leaders as they walked through the international ballroom doors.

The keynote speaker for the morning was Hilary Clinton. And, I have to tell you, Secretary Clinton’s speech was absolutely phenomenal. Themes of her speech included: the empowerment of women and girls around the world, the feeling of simultaneously experiencing both humility and honor, the divisiveness of religion, the significance of her own personal faith, the strength that comes through being in fellowship with one another, and the necessity of finding common ground, focusing on our similarities rather than our differences.  This last point was demonstrated through an anecdote that she told about the National Prayer Breakfast the year that Mother Theresa was the keynote speaker.

Secretary Clinton’s theme of finding common ground tied in perfectly with the remarks that President Obama would give next, his main message focused on the idea of civility. He charged the room telling the breakfast guests, “Surely you can challenge my policies without questioning my faith, or for that matter, my citizenship.” He continued, “Challenging each other’s ideas can renew our democracy.  But when we challenge each other’s motives, it becomes harder to see what we hold in common.”

Both Secretary Clinton and President Obama’s speeches were fabulous. As well as civility Obama also covered a number of topics, discussing the earthquake in Haiti, as well as mentioning the brokenness of our Immigration System.

The breakfast was an incredible experience, and I felt honored to be there. This experience is one that will surely be a major highlight remembered from my year as a volunteer.

Unfortunately I’m having a lot of trouble tracking down Secretary Clinton’s Speech online, but Click Here To Read President Obama’s Speech.


February 2, 2010

The other evening I had an instructional meeting in Washington D.C. to learn more about an event that I will be participating in later this week. The instructor of the meeting explained the mission, purpose, and history of this event as a “great story”. A large story in which many other stories are found and created. This analogy was refreshing to me, especially as I thought of it today in relation to my time with LIRS.

As I spent time reflecting today on my own ideas about “story” I decided to re-read my first blog entry of the year.

Here is what I wrote:

“A story; a continuum of experiences that have created and shaped both thought and belief; people, forces, and knowledge that will continue pushing us forward, further and further into the unknown.  As one story evolves, all characters involved will begin to interact with both individual and communal development. As a 22 year old woman, I recognize my own story as a direct result of the others that I have encountered. My story, just as yours, is a compilation of other stories, those we have seen, heard, and been a part of. I am entirely convinced that to be in relationship with another individual requires absolute interconnectedness of story.”

I love this. I love to think about this year of my life, my time spent in Baltimore, and the story it will be one day. I like that it is a part of a larger story called “my life”;  a story within a story. And within this year are hundreds and hundreds of other stories: people I’ve met, friends I am making, skills I am learning.

This is what this year is about for me. Meeting people, hearing their stories, allowing mine to be transformed, and encouraging the transformation of others, through the sharing of story.

Today I was reminded of just how beautiful this concept is.

On another note: I hope that part of my story for today gets to be one filled with SNOW!

Feeling Inspired

February 1, 2010

The latest project that I have been working on is a new video made up entirely of words and still images.

The video title: “Welcome is…”

As I watch the clips I study their transitions over and over again. Adjusting the speed and transition of one photo to the next, I read the words on the screen. I have listed a variety of different actions and thoughts, different ways to exude an attitude of welcome.

As I review these images and take in the words, I examine my own experience in Baltimore, my own attitude of welcome. Something I have found absolutely inspiring about every single individual that I have interviewed and photographed this year is their openness towards a new place, new culture, and a new way of life. The people I have met all do a beautiful job at learning and experiencing new situations, while gracefully maintaining personal and cultural identity. This attribute I admire greatly. I too desire this attitude towards new experiences and periods of time in my life.

I feel inspired as I see these beautiful images.