a reflection from Hillary, CHFC Atlantic City
Above all else I am very grateful for my time in Faith Community. If I was placed in the position of talking to people about my experience, I would totally be overwhelmed. There is too much; I’ve experienced too much in my one year to really break it down for someone. I remember when I started this journey and someone (Katrina, I think) told me that I would be debriefing about my experiences many years after they were over. I thought that that was impossible. Well, after a year at the Covenant House I do truly know that the impossible can happen.
Faith Community has been one of the most important decisions in my life and for that I will be eternally thankful. During this year, I have found parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. I never knew that at age 24 I would be a mother to a 22 year old woman. I never knew I could fall in love so many times. That sounds so romantic but really; I never knew I could fall in love with so many babies: Mina, Gia, Pookie, Ra-Ra, Naleah, Eziekel, Eliijah, Xaxier, Jayden, Saniyah, Quannie, Gavin, Zxa-riyah. If I needed to or could, I would adopt them all, really. I remember my mom telling me that she didn’t think I could do social work because I would get attached too quickly to the “clients”. I have gotten attached to them and it breaks my heart to think about leaving them. I know most of them will be “systems kids”. All I can do for them now is pray. I knew we were fighting a battle that could never be won when one of our moms told her six month old child to “shut the f–k up and lay back down”. I pray that the seeds we as social workers have planted will grow and our youth will want to get jobs, education, and/or counseling.
Everyone always tells me that it’s so amazing that I could take a year off from my life to volunteer for a year. I wish it was actually like that. I wish my family and friends would pause their lives until I’ve gotten rid of this travel/volunteering bug. After being here in Atlantic City for one month, I found out that my great uncle passed away. There have been births, birthdays, jail time, graduations, holidays, traditions, illnesses, pregnancies, and much, much more that I’ve missed because of being here. Luckily I’ve been able to see some of those things happen but I’m always a phone call away. My niece will probably be at least five months old before I meet her. Sometimes I feel badly about the things that I’ve missed but I know that I’ve gained much more than I’ve missed out on.
Hillary and the Atlantic City Faith Community 2009
I think Faith Community should never be underestimated. I came into my service hoping for spiritual and professional growth. I’ve gotten that and much, much more. I have lived in an intentional community without severely maiming anyone. At times I haven’t thought that that was a possibility. I’ve gained more confidence in myself as a leader, family member, friend, and community member which extends further than our little humble abode. I have grown deeper in a relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I don’t know what any that really means but for the most part, I know how to get myself back on the right track when I step off. I don’t know how to take my life before community and conform it into a new thought of what my life after community will be. I know that I’ll get through it. God will help me along my way.
When I think about offering new FC members advice, I came up with a few things:
- Discernment is one of the most important steps in the journey. So you hear about FC but should you actually do it? I knew that I should definitely commit but I didn’t know how to get over the bumps in the road especially feeling overwhelmed and situating everything before I left. I remember going to orientation and formation even and realizing that I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I wanted to leave ASAP. I remembered that God had put this in front of me for a reason. That is what has gotten through may rough times here. Understand your discernment and stick with it.
- Try new things; don’t be too set in your ways.
- Be open.
- Talk to everyone. Father Steve once told me that the smelliest, ugliest, most annoying person is the one that he’s going to talk to first because that’s where he finds Jesus. Apply that to our youth and to everyone.
- While in FC, I gained a whole new sense of the word grateful. I’m grateful that I’m not a single mom, that I haven’t been abused, that I’m not addicted to any substances, that my family is amazing, and that I wake up every morning.
- Take time to listen – especially to God – everything works on His time, not yours.
- Really try to stick to your stipend
- Take time to reflect as a group and individually
- Never lose your individuality
Like I said, being a part of FC has been one of the best decisions of my life. I hope to tell my story to others to inspire them to join as well.