As the weather is starting to cool (or is it?), I pause to reflect on where I was a year ago. Like many first-year VISTAs, I was excited and scared, driven and lost, all at once. I wanted to get out and change the world by charging headlong into service. And for many, this is a viable option. However, after some reflection, a quote of Laozi’s that I had lived by but never put into practice in my professional life came to me. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”, which I think is in line with a proverb that nicely sums up VISTA work: “The seed never sees the flower”. It is with those two thoughts constantly in mind that I proceed with my year as a VISTA Leader.
Perspective is an intriguing thing. The strangeness of perspective struck me as I flew to Denver for Leader training. Once you’re in the sky looking down, everything becomes so small and interconnected. Cities separated by miles, customs, and economic boundaries seem to be next to each other, virtual bedfellows. Thus it is being on the other side of VISTA service. As a VISTA, your world is your site and community. It is hard to see how you connect with other VISTAs in your cohort, community, or region. As a Leader it is helpful, and necessary, to see how VISTAs connect to each other. Adapting to this perspective change has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences since I began the position. I am afforded the opportunity to see VISTA work from above and guide those bedfellows from different focus areas to work as a cohort to wrestle with poverty.
And with that, I leave with one last thought. As VISTAs it is often said that we fight poverty. We do not fight poverty; we wrestle with it. A fight indicates a brief, passionate eruption of violence. We wrestle with the beast. We give and we take. We pin poverty to the ground only to be tossed on our backs to be pinned in turn. We seek to understand and outwit our nemesis. To fight poverty does not give it the respect it deserves. To fight poverty is to expect that we can, with one swift blow, eliminate it and claim victory. To wrestle with poverty is to accept it as a worthy adversary and to mitigate the damage to those most affected by its ravages.
Be well, be mindful and deliberate in your work, and keep in touch.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!