Today was my last day as an administrative assistant / volunteer coordinator at SUA - I'm returning to teaching ESL at World Relief full time through AmeriCorps (and continuing to nanny as well). The kids and staff surprised me with a box of sweet notes. The notes were sweet, but sobering as they confirmed through their words that the connections I had made with a few of the kids were still in fragile infancy and may or may not survive my transition. And yet that affirmed recent decisions.
Part of the reason that the connections were slow to deepen was my frenetic pace in the first half of 2013. I like to think I can do everything, and maybe I can, but I can't do everything well. I survived working three jobs and volunteering twenty hours a week and taking two classes all at the same time. But I didn't thrive. And I didn't love well. My time with people was rushed, my enthusiasm continuously low, my investment and openness checked by self-protective instincts. I couldn't connect with kids outside of school, I couldn't accept my students' frequent invitations to their homes, I ignored my neighbors, my money management flew out of control, my physical health declined, my time with Jesus became hurried, and I neglected my family and friends. The summer has been a season of reflection and the fall a season of change - relinquishing my grasp and narrowing my commitments so that I can focus in on being a good steward of my top priorities. It seems so obvious, but it's so hard to accept the limitations of smallness with graceful humility. I was reminded through the lack of depth in the notes, both in their knowledge of me and in my knowledge of them, that being overcommitted had pushed me to this point of having little relationally to show for a year's worth of time at SUA and that I needed to focus in to pursue what I value and what I think I'm made for, which is fewer significant relationships rather than more shallow ones.
The other reason that the connections I made were so incremental was that my position at SUA didn't center around direct engagement with the students. I didn't get to spend all day with them in the classroom, or even work logistics out directly with them and their families as our Office Coordinator does. Instead we only traded small talk and occasional chats, sincere though they might have been, when we happened to be in the same space or as I served them lunch, and most of my engagement was with volunteers and other staff. I need to work in a directly relational position. I am sure of that now. I need a job in which I can spend my days learning to know and be known by real people who are journeying through dark and scary places of life and who could use a companion along the way, and figuring out how to love them well like Jesus loves me well. (What does well mean? Sincerely, openly, humbly, diligently, relevantly, practically, committedly, securely... that's a whole nother conversation.) That's why I love teaching so much, and why I've chosen to focus on that over the next year. I have so much opportunity to connect deeply and consistently and practically and servant-heartedly with my students and I want to focus in on that incredible opportunity that makes use of my loves and my strengths. If I ever went back to working at SUA, I would want it to be as a teacher. They get to be on the front lines, and that's exactly where I want to be. I have learned some good things through my time in the logistics chain, but it's not the right long-term fit for me.
So I'm sad to leave the SUA students and staff, but not sad to leave my role there. I'm encouraged by the opportunities God has opened up for focusing in this year and I'm hopeful that he's going to use it to make me a better vessel of his love.
"Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen."
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