When I decided to do a second year of the Young Adult Volunteer program, I didn’t really know what it was that God had in store for me. I just knew that I would be in Tucson doing something. I knew I would have an intentional community and spend time discerning more about what my call was. My vocation. I didn’t really know that already, a month in, it would be a vastly more emotional journey than I feel like the first month of my first year even came close to being. Admittedly part of that lay at the feet of Transition Retreat, which, on the whole, was a wonderfully needed experience. There was some closure to be had in that place, in the cold, in the rain, watching the Aspens change with the weather and being reunited with the YAV class of 16-17.
This year is all about Sistering for me. I work at the Sister Jose Women’s Center. I live with three other women. It is truly a year that makes me think of the one women’s retreat I got to attend with NAPC and the idea of Sistering, the note I closed with at the Community Food Bank last year. Incidentally, it was an agency write up about Sister Jose. Sistering is a construction term. It uses sister beams to support a beam that has been under stress where it sits in the structure. Sometimes one, or two. You can sister a sister beam. Whenever you use this technique, the person doing the building has to figure out where to put the support would be, how many it needs, and so on, because each beam is unique and is carrying a unique burden. Not any one has the same situation going on. The builder recognizes that we don’t throw away the beams, we don’t discard them, because each of these beams is essential, it has a purpose. We put others alongside it to take care and hold it up, to help it carry what it can no longer bear alone.
In my first YAV year, I learned that there are many things that we can bear when we have those who come alongside us in covenant community. Without the support of my community, both my YAV-mates and my friends I made in the larger Tucson community, I don’t know if I would have made it through my year. I struggled with it, especially the medical diagnosis, adjusting to meds, to the change in freedom, but I had people alongside me to help bolster me. I was held up to be able to bear my burden.
This year, I live in a community with three other women. I work at an organization that is run by women in support and care of women experiencing homelessness. My year is all about sistering. Some days, I leave Sister Jose’s and I wonder who the sister beam really is. I know the women I work with are there to receive services and I am there as a volunteer to help with showers, laundry, clothes, data entry, and just about anything else you could think of, but often I think I have stepped into a place where I might just receive more from the laughter and interactions I have. Certainly, there are difficult days. Anytime someone asks for something we can’t provide, a deodorant, a bed, a lunch if we’ve run out, I hurt for the inability to give them something. But when I can find them exactly what they need, or when they come in for something they need and it also happens to be something they enjoy. Like last night, there was cake with dinner, and one of the ladies who stayed was so excited. She hadn’t had cake in years and you could tell she was savoring every taste. Something as simple as the skill of learning names quickly, being able to remember faces and using that. It is that small human connection that we all crave. Just today, I was calling ladies back for the night program, called a name of a returning guest and even though I always have her down she was shocked. “I wouldn’t forget you! Don’t worry!” She smiled and laughed when I told her that, but it’s so true. It hurts me to know that, at some point, I think she has learned that she is forgettable.
We’re only a month in. None of these women are forgettable. I know I will think of their stories daily after I finish this year. I hope others do as well, because they deserve that. They do. They deserve people that know their names, that notice who loves color, who loves sparkle and print and handbags and that for some reason people don’t think that women experiencing homelessness are still women. They donate things women don’t use, which is odd to me. So in sistering, I think about this, we are all brought close to disaster at different times in our lives. Very often, it is nothing short of chance that prevents you from being where you are. Think about that. See the people, and think about who they are. You never know, they all have stories. I’m lucky enough to be along side them, while we sister each other.
In wonderment and peace,
PS, as always, I’m fundraising for my year. National YAVs are asked to raise $4000 this year. If 100 of you donate $40 dollars, that’s all I need! I’m going to donate to myself as well. You can go to tucsonborderlandsyav.org to donate online or send a check to 400 E University Blvd Tucson AZ 85705. Make them payable to Tucson Borderlands YAV.
If you would like to support Sister Jose Women’s Center, we always need items. Contact me directly and I can tell you what we need most and where to send them. I see what’s in our warehouse everyday and interact with the women directly and know what they like. They are women just like the women you know. So if you want to send some stuff, let me know and I’ll let you know what we’re really running low on, or what kinds of things would really brighten their day!