Sunday, June 20, 2010

WLC Week 2: Frustration and Belief

Last week a student asked me if working all summer doing the same conference would get boring. My response, which I now believe even more is, “No, each week is extremely different because each week the students are so unique compared to the week before.” This has proven to be very true with our second week of WLC already gone and passed.

This week we had students from WI, MD, MO, KS, IA, TX, UT, OH, OR, and CA. The dynamic of this week was very thoughtful, reflective, and eventually goofy! The Freemasons this week started off as a quite, shy, and introverted group, however after the first day everyone began to come out of their shells and REALLY let their light shine.

If I were to pick two words that would describe this week in my eyes they would be:

1) Frustrated, and 2) Belief

Frustrated: this week I was infused with the emotion of frustration, especially the final day. You might be on the edge of your seat right now wondering why Becky, why so frustrated? It’s simple, because student like these are one of a kind. Because it is so wonderful to be surrounded by young adults inspired and enthused about serving the needs of our world, and not just settling for selfish desires to give them temporary happiness. These students KNOW what it really means to be’s appreciating the act of helping others that gives you true-life satisfaction.

During a coffee talk with a mentor of mine yesterday, she said “Becky, how will you ensure these students leave WLC and transfer what they have learned and their passion for service PAST their summers? How do you make sure that is a focus of their life that is never forgotten?” With this question I began to ponder the power of keeping close relationships with those we meet at WLC. The power of an encouraging word or a extended hand to help if possible. The depth of the relationships we create this summer is one of the largest factors that contributes to whether these students really live a life of service and authenticity.

As I thought about this question presented to me yesterday, it also made me think of my personal life. It is so easy to live what we preach as we are surrounded by like-minded people, however the ability to stay on that path when we return home is so difficult. While thinking about this, I couldn’t help but be frustrated that there have been times when I personally have fallen into the rut of forgetting the “bigger picture.” We all do it, however the challenge for students, parents, teachers, friends, and ourselves is to find a way to ensure we live the lives we want, and not be influenced to society’s selfish habits. We must serve, because we can. Making a difference in the lives of others is what it is all about.

Belief: We must start by believing that making a difference is possible. Student after student this week said “I never thought I had the potential to make a difference, however I now believe that it is possible. I can make a difference.” This couldn’t be more untrue. Often times we are our greatest limitations. We hold ourselves back from doing great things because we have already told ourselves that we are not capable. Each and EVERY student that I have come in contact with this summer has SOO much hidden potential just waiting to be cultivated for the betterment of the world.

One of the sessions we facilitate at WLC is about discovering our strengths, abilities, and passions. It is here that we vocalize and see just how uniquely equipped each of us are to serve the world. God made us all differently for a reason, because there are so many needs to be fulfilled, and not one person can do it all.

One of our Freemasons this week said “I used to want to change all the problems in the world, and I would always get overwhelmed. However this week has taught me that I can make a difference, but I must focus on starting in one area.” She nailed it. The more time we spend on one or two goals, the better job we do.

Week two of WLC flew by, and has left me feeling empowered by the students I have seen. Yes, it can be frustrating that there are not more people in our hometowns that share the same heart of service, however believe that our passion for helping others can and WILL be transferred to those we touch.

This world needs each of us. What can we do? Do what we can.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week One of Washington Leadership Conference, One for Many

E Pluribus Unum

One for many, that is what this phrase found on the back of a quarter means. When we read this phrase we all have many different interpretations, and as our experiences broaden our thought process continues to adapt.

This week E Pluribus Unum took on a new form in my world. This summer I am in Washington D.C. facilitating with a team of four other college students a leadership conference called “Washington Leadership Conference,” or WLC. Our phrase “one for many” appeared in the faces of high school students from OK, MO, WI, VA, WA, TX, and CA this past week.

You see, WLC is unlike any other leadership conference. Yes, we tour the sights of Washington D.C. and discuss the outstanding leaders of our past, but there is so much more. WLC hits on what it truly means to be an authentic leader, and even more specifically the importance to serve.

I was blessed to get to know 132 students this past week, and REALLY get to know 26 students in an even deeper level (seeing how there were in my smaller group, the Freemasons community group). The Freemasons that joined our secret society this week are without a doubt some of the most incredible, big-hearted, and hard working individuals I have met. Yesterday as we all said our goodbyes’, it was extremely difficult for me to articulate just what this group of students has taught me. After a night of reflection here is my attempt to put into words something too powerful to truly understand unless you have experienced it:

5) The “BIG” picture: Freemasons, you all helped to remind me of what truly matters. It is easy for all of us to get caught up in the trends of society, whether that is materialism or selfishness. Thank you for emphasizing for me again the importance of being selfless, even in the simple parts of our lives such as opening doors and looking out for a friend.

4) Hard Work: Austin and D.J. (also known as D. Jizzle), mentioned multiple times after our service project how far hard work can make a difference in anything you do in life. Building fence out at the Oxon Hill Farm as our service project was difficult, especially in 90 degree humid weather. However, we had FUN doing it, and came together like we didn’t know was possible.

3) Commitment: With our living to serve plans (LTSP) we created, it is clear that each student made a commitment. A commitment to do everything they can to make their LTS plan a reality. And if by chance our specific plan doesn’t work as we mapped out, it’s ok because each of us committed to living a heart of service. To service others in any capacity is the real key…the needs are endless.

2) Community: This was our first week of WLC this summer, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of students to show me what it really means to be a community. We came together as 26 complete strangers, and in five days we were all comfortable opening our hearts in front of the entire group. Thank you for showing me just how close people can become in such a short amount of time.

11) Believe: Such a strong word, and sometimes an extremely tough action to make. This past week, each and every student at WLC showed my teammates and I what it really means to believe. Believe that we are capable of great things, believe that we can change this world, and believe that one person can make a difference. One for many. One empowering action can create that ripple effect to create the change we wish to see in the world.

E Pluribus Unum
…one for many. Thank you to all our WLC students for demonstrating what it means to be one group dedicated and enthused to serve many. Our world is a big place with many needs…and we CAN make a difference.