This little blog has really gotten the shaft from me this summer. Womp womp. BUT!! For once I’m here with a valid excuse for no blogging last week – I was out of town for my annual favorite week of the year… that’s right, it was service trip time!
This year, I tagged along with the hubby’s new(ish) job to work with the Omaha and Winnebago tribes in Nebraska through my absolute favorite service program – Young Neighbors in Action. Dan has been taking groups to particpate in YNIA for longer than I’ve known him, and for the last several years he has also worked two weeks a summer as the site coordinator for their Chicago weeks. The 3 trips I’ve been on in previous summers to Detroit were all with YNIA, and those weeks have truly changed me. This year, while I was a little anxious about going to a new city with a group of teens and adults I’d never met, I knew without a doubt that it would be a fantastic week simply because it was YNIA.
The biggest influences for me in Nebraska were (as per usual), the YNIA staff. For the next few days, I’m going to chat here about how awesome they were and throw in some fun pictures from our week of service (like our friend Mr. Buffalo below!). This is partially because if I wrote about all of the staff members at once it would make for one of my infamously long wordy posts that I’m sure nobody wants to read… but in all honesty, a big part of my raving about our new friends is just me stalling on what I really want to write, but am struggling to find the words for.
As I said above, YNIA has changed me in the past. For whatever reason, this year was different in the sense that it changed me… but in a deeper and more meaningful way that I didn’t even realize was happening really until we got home and I felt kind of like I had been dumped by a boyfriend without any closure. While that sounds awful, I don’t mean for it to – what I more mean is that my brain and my heart are reeling to figure out how to change long-term instead of my typical “I’m changed… but I also have to go back to work and get back to the grind of the real world so it’ll fade in a week or so." I think that having just started a new job right before our trip (thus already being in the midst of major changes) is a big part of why this year is different, why I feel like I can truly change for the better from this trip… and why I’m struggling to figure out exactly how. YNIA moved me - the people I’m going to write about in the next few days changed my perspective dramatically (along with Dan, who is constantly making me want to be a better person without even trying). I don’t want to forget it, and I don’t want to just go back to what used to be. So for now, enjoy reading about my new friends (it’s ok if you’re a little jealous that you don’t know them, I sure would be) ;), and I’ll be back soon with what will hopefully be a post full of positivity, strength and a changed outlook for the future!
First up... Billy! Our program director for the week that neither Dan or I had ever met before, Billy is high on my list of new favorite people. To say that I adored Billy within hours would be an understatement. His Warby Parker glasses, mustache luggage tag and general sarcasm were early hints that we’d get along, but it was his approach and style when working with the teens that really won me over. I lost track of how many times I leaned over to Dan or a teen and said “he’s good” when Billy was speaking during prayer or programming, and every time, whoever I was whispering to would nod in agreement. I loved the way he took big lofty things like solidarity and laid them out in a manner that made me (and I assume everyone else) just get it. We had a couple of typical teenage drama situations throughout the week and the way he dealt with one of them in particular literally left me in a weird cross between smiling like a moron and wanting to cry because it was so genuine. A somewhat new parent, I loved listening to his stories about his daughter (and how he wooed his wife!), and found that one of my favorite times of the day was sitting around outside the school after the workday and talking with Billy. I’m genuinely bummed that he and his family live so far away, and have officially added his hometown to my list of places we should visit just so we can all hang out again.
There were a few quotes throughout the week that Billy threw out that I scribbled on my journal to remember. One of them in particular will be a big part of the post I'm working on about perspective, but I don't think this post would be complete without at least calling it out. I honestly don't remember who in Billy's story was the one that actually said this to him, but I'm crediting him with it because I heard it from him and it 110% stuck. He said:
"You don't have to like everyone. But you do have to love everyone."
Billy - on the off chance that you've decided to partake in some form of social media and are reading this - THANK YOU for helping me have an absolutely incredible week. It's not every day someone will write an entire poem about biscuits and gravy and recite it in front of 80+ people, and I'm not kidding when I say I'm going to frame the lyrics you gave me. Thank you for the bits of parenting advice (no Mom, I'm not pregnant), for letting me vent, and for being willing to walk around a Pow Wow campground with me eating turkey legs as big as our heads. You're awesome, and I hope to keep in touch and get to meet your adorable family some day. Thanks again.