Anna Jeide, 2016-17 Volunteer
Dag Hammarskjold House, Washington, DC
About seven months ago I was having lunch with my adviser at Luther College. With graduation fast approaching, I told her how excited I was to begin my year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps.
For a long time I had felt called to participate in LVC, drawn by the promise of intentional community, a commitment to simple living, and the opportunity to work for justice. I was thrilled to be offered a position working directly with Latin@s as a Case Worker at La Clínica del Pueblo, a chance to put my Spanish major to good use by working for a community health center.
My adviser listened to my hopes for the coming year. Then she gave me some advice that stuck with me since. She said,
“Now that you’ve made this decision, you have to let go of all your expectations.”
She explained that we make choices; often based on our expectations of what an experience/ job/ relationship/ (fill in the blank) will be like. Those expectations become our reasons for choosing something. But, clinging to those expectations can get in the way of opening ourselves up to the actual experience.
At national orientation we were each prompted to consider what our “inner work” could be and how this could influence our spiritual journey. I realize now that my inner spiritual work is to let go of expectations and be open to experience, and I may not be the only volunteer coming to this realization.
So here I am, four months into LVC and only now do I appreciate what my adviser meant.
Perhaps “intentional community” doesn’t look how we imagined it to be. Or the job doesn’t match the description on the page. Or maybe the novelty of a new city has worn off, and it doesn’t yet feel like the home we hoped for.
But LVC expects us to grow through these challenges.
We are encouraged to ask ourselves, what am I learning from this? How can I recognize my privilege in this? How is my spiritual life maturing through this experience?
These are all questions I wrestle with daily.
I’ve learned that building community with new people isn’t always easy. It comes with challenges and joys.
I’ve learned that casework can be both rewarding and stressful. Developing relationships with patients brings me joy. At the same time, I feel the weight of responsibility and pressure to ensure each patient gets the quality attention and care they need.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that I am most frustrated when I compare my expectations to my experiences. And I’ve discovered that when I choose to be open to all I experience at work, at home, and in the wider city, I can find a multitude of reasons to be grateful.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work at a clinic that is committed to creating a healthy Latino community and providing culturally appropriate, patient-centered services. I am blessed to have coworkers who are so motivated, compassionate, and generous; they inspire and encourage me every day. Although working directly with patients can be challenging, they are also my greatest teachers.
I’m grateful for the spontaneous moments of connecting with my housemates, for friendly faces at church, and for the lady who sells fruit on the corner every day and converses with me in Spanish as I pass by.
When I create room for experience by letting go of expectations, I find that challenges bring opportunity for growth, the unexpected moments bring joy, and I learn to trust that God is working through it all.
I look forward to experiencing the rest of this year. I hope to grow spiritually, build community, live simply, and deepen my understanding of what it means to work for social justice. As to how that will unfold, I have no expectations, not just for this year with LVC but for the many years to come.
May it be so.