What does it mean to Reimagine the Magis? All December 2020, during a year of radical reimagining, we explore this most Jesuit charge, in order to be more, become more, and realize a more inclusive, equitable, and just Northwest.
In my experience, the deeper you dive into something profound, the more you realize you don’t know about it. This realization has been the case with my attempt to be in service for and with others. I am in the midst of my second JV service year here in Seattle as the Center Support Specialist / Volunteer Coordinator at the Matt Talbot Center. In the past two years, the ways I view the world, and myself, have radically changed.
Here in the Cherry Abbey home, I have a lot of space to reflect on how service has impacted my self-concept. I have also come to realize the work I put in to understand myself has had and continues to have ripple effects on my relationships with others. One goal for this year is to strengthen my mindfulness skills in order to bring my authentic self to the present moment. This work has not been an easy journey for me. I also hope to dive deeper into my own relationship with social and racial justice.
I had a multitude of reasons for deciding to pursue an additional year of service here in Seattle. One is that I find joy in being in relationship with others, so a program that emphasizes intentional community made sense to me. An additional year of service also was in line with my desire to dive deeper into what drives me to be with others. If I’m being fully honest, I felt a little cheated in my first year of service due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Service was intensely changed and it was traumatic to see the multitude of people suffering, whereas I was in a place of separation, not being able to serve in person. And as I acknowledge how the radical changes in our society have impacted me, I also want to say I am in a place of privilege as a young white male.
Something I have learned in these two years is I am no one’s savior. I come from a somewhat rural community in Oklahoma, which is not something I am ashamed of; however, my lack of shame does not preclude me from examining how white supremacy has been present in my life. Facing my white privilege alongside the concept of white saviorism has been vital in checking myself. I say check myself because I have found that knowing my intention for service is necessary in order to acknowledge my impact on others. Leaning into the tough questions and wrestling with aspects of myself that have been tainted by white supremacy culture has been draining yet fruitful. Therapy has been much needed during this time of transition and introspection, providing me with resiliency skills I can use to reflect on the views I carry.
One day of service this year, I was able to come in and be present with a new batch of clients. There were around eight clients and they were at the Center for their introductory meeting into the treatment program. Due to the reflection and work I have put in, I had an internal shift, which helped lower my barriers; I was able to be much more present with them. I realized during our interactions that what separates them from me is much less than I initially thought. Sure, I have the privilege to be in the position of not needing treatment; however, I also have the honor of being able to see them walk on their journey towards sobriety. My connection with the clients was and is deeper because of my internal work.
These past two years have also been a journey of learning how to express my own needs while honoring the commitments I choose to make with others. One of my commitments is to educate myself on others’ lived experiences. Whether it be seeking how to decolonize my view of Thanksgiving, or learning how white supremacy culture harms myself and others, I hope to always dive deeper. My perspective on race and social justice itself is fraught with privilege, which has driven me to seek ways to lift up others’ voices while not putting the burden of educating me on others’ shoulders. I have much to work on in this regard.
Intentional reflection on my desire to be present with others, while having to reconcile that my impact is more important than my intent, has been a constant theme for the entirety of my time as a JV. Whether in my community of fellow volunteers, at my service placement, within my personal relationships, or in the broader Seattle community, becoming more mindful of how I bring myself is paramount to my and others’ fulfillment. Both at my prior service placement and at the Matt Talbot Center this year, I have come to the realization that I am not the vital, missing piece that will fix someone’s life. Truthfully, if I hadn’t examined this hurtful and untrue belief that I had unwittingly bought into, I could have had a negative impact on those I wish to be present with and for. Impact is greater than intent.
I love my time as a volunteer and it has given me so much to be grateful for; however, asking tough questions is a vital piece to becoming a more thoughtful and effective person. Being mindful of how I carry the values of intentional community, social justice, and service is the foundation of diving deeper into how I show up with others. There is much more to learn this year about myself and about what I value, but I am grateful to have the relationships I have formed in Seattle as support.