Posts Tagged With: employment

Planting Seeds

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s spring (not that we really had much of a winter by Canadian standards). Everything is turning green, blooming, and generally looking beautiful.The spring bulbs are starting to blossom. But in order for those bulbs to bloom now, they had to be planted last fall.

This is not the first time I’ve used images of plants and seeds to describe the spiritual life, and I’m certainly not the only one in history to do so (For instance, St. Teresa of Avila talked about watering a garden). In the past few years, I’ve often been the growing and tending stage. The seeds of discerning ministry, school, and making friends, had been planted – partly out of necessity and partly by choice. Now, those seeds have bloomed. One year ago, I successfully defended my thesis and finished school. This capped off three years of new friends, new joys and challenges, and discerning where God was asking me to go next.

For a while I simply enjoyed the blooms in my spiritual garden – the joy and relief that came from finishing school, the bliss of being able to relax with friends, and the excitement and healthy dose of nerves about moving to work in ministry. But now, those blooms are fading, their memories recorded in journals and with pictures. It’s time to plant new seeds.

I don’t know exactly what seeds I’m planting; there isn’t a sign or label anywhere saying what these seeds are supposed to grow into. I think I’m planting some friendship seeds, and of course some faith and ongoing discernment seeds. But there are also some new ones, writing being the most prominent. I have no idea what exactly is going to come from any of these seeds. This is equally exciting and nerve-wracking. What if none of them grow?! the nagging voice at the back of my head asks, better to not plant them at all.

But when this voice gets too loud, I return to the mustard seed: the tiniest of the seeds grows into the largest of shrubs and provides a home to birds (Matthew 13:31-32), and having faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to tell a mountain to move (Matthew 17:20). So, ignoring the nagging little voice, I plant and care for all of the seeds, and have faith that the proper ones will grow, because “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1-4), and really isn’t that what gardening is as well?

Preparing the soil,

Lauren

PS: Readers, have you either seen the fruit of prayer in your life, or are you planting some new seeds. Share below, and I’ll be sure to pray for your seeds too!

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Being Professional

Dear Pope Francis,

Within five months I’ll be done of my master’s degree. There is something unique about a Master of Divinity, namely that while it’s a master’s degree, it’s specifically intended to be a professional degree, rather than a primarily a research-based degree. A large component of the work I do in this program is applying the theology I’ve been learning. That might be appropriating it into my own life and spirituality, or developing programs or talks incorporating the information. Some parts have been incredibly practical, like learning some of the ethical issues of being a minister in the Roman Catholic Church, or any Church for that matter.

Often times, people turn to their faith with their questions, their joys and their fears. Turning to their faith can also mean concretely turning to the Church. They build relationships of trust with the various Church leaders, be it a priest, deacon, lay minister, chaplain, whomever. Whether we agree with it or not, leaders are put on a pedestal, held up as an example of how to live, what to think and how to practice the faith. These factors put the minister in a unique position, because they are privy to sensitive information about the people in their congregation, and how the minister responds to that information can drastically influence people’s impressions of the Church as a whole.

Ministers in the Church are not necessarily unique in this relationship of trust. Without realizing it, society often attributes greater respect to different roles and jobs than others. For instance, doctors are often more highly respected than hair stylists based solely on their career. While it is important that we question these unspoken assumptions about respect-based-on-career, people in those careers need to be aware of their position, and act accordingly. There are limits on what is acceptable behaviour for a doctor, police officer, lawyer, journalist, and a variety of others.

My assumptions about some of these professions were highlighted in December when news about a scandal at Dalhousie Dentistry School hit the media. A group of young men had been making misogynistic and utterly inappropriate comments about their female classmates in a private Facebook group. While I don’t want to downplay the important conversations about rape culture and gender inequality that are happening because of this, there is also an important conversation to be had about professional ethics.

Dentists, like other professions, are privy to some sensitive information about their patients. Having spent my fair share of time in a dentist’s chair, I know how nervous some people can be before opening their mouths and letting someone, even someone who has studied for years, poke around in there. I would be even more nervous knowing that my dentist could have been making inappropriate comments about drugging women with the gases he has easy access to.

I understand that these young men are still in school, but they are in a professional school.  When I was doing my field placement as a student, I made sure that I was professional, including how I dressed and interacted with everyone in the placement. Professionalism is not something you graduate into, you receive the diploma and then you have to start acting professional. It is something that should be practiced as a student. It is a habit and a skill to be learned, it needs to be practiced.

Does this mean professionals can’t share inside jokes with their peers? Certainly not. What it does mean is that they must be aware of what they are saying about whom, and what they are saying. Are they slandering others, either patients/clients/etc. or peers? Are they spreading gossip? Would they want the person they are talking about to hear what is being said? Depending on your answer, maybe you should rethink what you’re categorizing as ‘inside professional jokes’.

 

In Christ,

Lauren

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Meredith’s Christmas Letter 2014

Merry Christmas! What a year 2014 has been. I didn’t write a Christmas letter last year, so this year’s includes some relevant points from the tail end of 2013. Highlights include five employers, four homes, three provinces, several stressed out tendons, and one intense weekend retreat.

During the first week of January 2014 the tendons in my right hand and arm went on strike. I had been working as a housekeeper and banquet server for the Fredericton Inn since the end of September 2013 when my hours at KHJ (Bell Media) were capped at ten a week.

Housekeeping is an incredibly physically demanding job. Think 8 hours of squats and lifting weights five days a week where the only break is half an hour at lunch. The tendons in my right hand and wrist had been acting up since shortly after I started working for the Inn. The carpal tunnel brace I wore stopped carpal tunnel from developing, but didn’t protect me from De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which affects the thumb and wrist tendons.

The morning I recognized the issue was serious I had been ignoring the pain for the first two hours of my shift because I couldn’t afford to take the day off. Then I couldn’t move any of my fingers or my thumb without excruciating pain which went all the way up my arm and I spilled beer all over the carpet because I tried to pick a half-empty bottle up. I left work early and spent the rest of the day in the emergency room; my friend Jessi took pity on me and relocated our plans to hang out after work to the Chalmers ER. She even brought food so I wouldn’t starve to death waiting to be seen.

I was initially given two weeks off work with instructions to ice my thumb and wrist for ten minutes every hour. Two weeks turned into four weeks which turned into six weeks off work, unable to do much of anything except read and watch Netflix. I averaged about one book every day and a half, and worked my way through four seasons of the new Dr. Who and three seasons of Downton Abbey.

I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends who were able to help me out during those six weeks. Jessi came over to my apartment and helped me cook at least once a week; Leo folded all my laundry for me a few times, helped feed me, and got me to leave the house even when I was grumpy and not very good company; Stephanie kept me company and drove me to doctor’s appointments; Gisèle made me laugh about how much pain I was in by sharing her experience with carpal tunnel pain and being her adorkable self.

Since it was eventually deemed a legitimate workplace injury I got paid for the time off, but not until about a month after I had gone back to work at the inn, now just in the capacity of a banquet server. Going from working 60 hours a week between four minimum or just above minimum wage jobs down to 10-25 hours a week in one just above minimum wage job is a pretty significant pay cut. After a couple of months of working part-time and hitting nothing but dead ends in my quest for full time work in Fredericton I faced reality: waiting tables wasn’t putting any food on mine, and it was time to move home.

Leo and I had started dating again the day before I hurt my hand. Initially when I decided to move back to Ontario we thought he would be coming with me. A few weeks before the move, he and I had a serious talk about the future and us and what we both wanted and needed for forever to work. We realized we’re the best of friends, but the things we wanted and needed weren’t necessarily compatible. So we broke up again; but this time it wasn’t a horrible traumatic thing. It was an appropriate ending to an amazing romantic relationship, and a good start to what I hope will be a lifelong friendship.

During the De Quervain’s saga I started a blog with Lauren, who many of you have met at Thanksgiving dinners over the last few years. Lauren and I met through Canadian Catholic Students Association events at university. As Anne Shirley said many times about Diana Barry, we found in each other a kindred spirit. We both contributed to LettersToThePope.org a few times a week until the summer. It’s mostly been Lauren keeping it going since then, because my life got hectic when I went back to Ontario.

I also had the chance to go to Halifax with my SERVE-brother Mike for an interview retreat weekend with NET Canada. NET is a travelling youth ministry team which puts on retreats and develops youth programs in Catholic Churches and schools across Canada. I made the decision to apply to NET in November 2013 while I was still reeling from Leo and I’s first break-up, not enjoying my work environment at KHJ and feeling utterly lost and without direction. At the time, I thought I wanted to do NET to share God’s love with teens across Canada. I recognize now I wanted to do NET to get away from all the things post-undergraduate degree life was throwing at me.

During the interview retreat weekend my one prayer was that wherever it was God wanted me to go in life, he would take away the fear of going there. As you know, my fourth year at STU was incredibly difficult. What I either didn’t realize or didn’t admit to myself was just how shaken my confidence in my ability to be a journalist was by the experience. When I went on the interview retreat weekend, I really wasn’t sure I even wanted to be a reporter anymore. I didn’t think I was good enough, and I didn’t want to be attacked that way again – something I was sure would happen if I was doing my job.

That weekend in Halifax was the first time in over a year the prospect of even applying for career-type jobs, journalism-related or otherwise hadn’t terrified me. NET sent me a very firm no in the mail about a month or so later. Hunter, a girl from PEI who I met that weekend was invited to go. She’s been at a parish in Swift Current, Saskatchewan since September and I’m happy to get the occasional letter update from the iNFUSE mission there.

My sister Kathleen flew out to Fredericton in May for the Victoria Day weekend. Joy and Renato took me to the airport to pick her up and we spent a day and a half seeing the sights and finishing up my packing for the move. Jessi spent my last night in Dunn’s Crossing with us and helped Kathleen and I load the U-Haul first thing in the morning on the Saturday. Dan stopped by to say goodbye before work and earned the “Help Meredith Every Time She Moves in Fredericton” achievement by carrying my TV down. Then everybody went to Cora’s for breakfast and a final goodbye hurrah.

Kathleen and I left Fredericton around 1pm AST and arrived at our hotel just outside Quebec City around 8pm EST. We had made a few stops on the way for gas, bathrooms and photos, and we took the U-Haul across the covered bridge in Hartland just because.

Sunday, I drove us from the hotel to Aunt Anne and Uncle Pat’s in Kingston. We spent the evening visiting with them and were taken on a lovely tour of downtown Kingston on a quest for gelato. Before we all turned in for the night we watched a movie with Claire and one of her friends.

Victoria Day we did the final leg from Kingston to Whitby. When we arrived at Mum and Dad’s, my brother, my sisters, and their significant others were all there to help unload. It was a lot faster than loading was, and I soon found myself installed in the upstairs north west corner bedroom, which belonged to Michael when I was in high school, and then to Maureen during my university years. The day after I unpacked my last box from Fredericton, Mum and Dad announced they were selling the house.

A few weeks after I got home, Chantal, a friend since high school recommended me for a job with Pilar’s Catering. Working a wedding season in the catering business truly is an experience like no other. I worked 12-18 hours just about every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday over the summer and picked up shifts during the week whenever I could. It was exhausting, but I liked my co-workers and I was happy to get to spend so much time out in the sun when I was at Bloomfield’s (a garden tent venue in Newcastle.) I spent a lot of my not-work days catching up on the sleep I didn’t get on the weekends, working on articles and book reviews for The Catholic Register and The Catholic Review of Books, opening rejection letters about jobs I had applied and interviewed for, hanging out with my siblings and of course spending time with Lauren since for the first time in four years of friendship we were living in the same province and close enough to visit.

I was also thrilled to get to attend my SERVE-sister Brittany and her husband Tim’s wedding over the Labour Day weekend in Hamilton. Watching the two of them say their vows and getting to spend the day with our SERVE-siblings Mike and Michelle was such a blessing. Meeting Brittany and Tim’s friends and family was also great, there were just so many good people there.

I wrote a column for Youth Speak News at The Catholic Register about post-grad employment and how sucky it is when you’re looking and not finding. The article was published online Friday September 19. Five days later I heard about three different jobs. One was for a paper in Huntsville, one was a contract with Faith Connections in Toronto, and the third was the job I’m in now.

Justin, a friend from school called me up out of the blue at 11pm on Sept. 24 and asked if I wanted to move to Alberta. There were two job openings at stations owned by the company he works for (Newcap Radio). “Anyways, I just thought I’d let you know. The deadline is Friday morning if you’re interested.”
I put in my application on the 26th and got a phone call that afternoon asking for an interview. I interviewed for the position by conference call on September 30th during a break from packing for my parents’ move the next day. Less than an hour after I hung up from the conference call I got a callback with the job offer.

I was asked to interview for the Faith Connections position in Toronto the day I flew to Alberta, but I didn’t go. I had prayed God would make it very clear where I was supposed to be. Less than a week from when I heard about the job at The Spur to when I was hired for it seemed like a pretty clear response to that. I still haven’t received a rejection letter from the newspaper in Huntsville.

I gave my notice to Pilar, helped my parent’s move house and didn’t bother unpacking much at the new place, just repacked and thinned out the stuff I was bringing with me to Alberta. My last two weekends in Ontario I spent dancing in Oshawa with Nick and Connor, two of my friends from Pilar’s.
Thanksgiving Monday my parents had a housewarming/going away party and I said my goodbyes to most of my Ontario family and friends. . I flew to Alberta October 20th and started work on the 23rd.

Now I live in a small studio apartment less than a kilometer from the radio station where I work in St. Paul. It’s a FM country station called 97.7 The Spur. I co-host the morning show with Dave and I report the news for this town of six thousand people and the surrounding area. I’m settling in well. I’ve made friends with a couple from Newfoundland and a few other people in their late twenties and early thirties. I’m in two choirs, one for church and one for fun and a group in Elk Point is trying to get me to join them too.

Work is going really well now that most of the technical issues from the first few weeks have been resolved. I have a few logoed shirts and a jacket for The Spur, and as of last week, my own business cards. (Sadly, I think I’m more excited about having business cards to hand out than I am about having 226 sq. feet of apartment to call my own.)

I’m really enjoying the work. The station manager Kevin has been an absolute dream in terms of helping me get settled in town and introducing me to people. Our receptionist Kris passes on every story tip she comes across in Elk Point. Dave and I get on well on air and he’s been really good with helping me learn the on-air-but-not-reading-news aspect of the job. I met the rest of the news team for our hub at the Newcap Christmas party a few weeks ago and they’re all great people.

I fit in St. Paul. It’s just me here, but that’s okay because this town is exactly my speed. As much as I love dancing, the city has never appealed to me as a lifestyle. Even at the end of my third year at STU when I interviewed for editor-in-chief at The Aquinian, they asked me where I saw myself in five years. I said I hoped to be working in the media in a small town, settling down and having a family. Two and a half years later I’m in a full-time permanent media position in a small town. I have no idea what God’s timeline is looking like for the other two items on that list, but I’m okay with that.

2014 was a huge year, so it took a huge letter to cover the big themes. Thank you all so much for your love, support, and prayers this year. I’m so blessed to have each of you as part of my life. I hope your Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are full of happiness, and that you will all see the ways 2015 will be good to you.

Love,
Meredith

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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Living in Martha-Mode

Dear Pope Francis,

Martha and Martha

Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42

Last week, neither Meredith or I posted a single thing, and I’m already a day late in posting this. We’ve both been MIA over the last couple of weeks. When we finally got a chance to catch up last week, the one thing I realized is just how busy we both are! I am currently holding down a few odd jobs while going to school full time. Last night, as I looked at my to do list, I had this overwhelming sense that I am turning into Martha (from the Gospel of Luke, 10:38-42).

I have a natural Martha-disposition. I do things for people. I take great pride in the fact that people can ask me to do things because they know I will get it done. One of the clichéd responses I get when I tell people everything I’m doing is that I need to learn how to say ‘no’. That’s true, sometimes.

Deeper than learning to say ‘no’, is a challenge. Martha’s sister Mary issues me a challenge every time I identify with Martha. Mary challenges me to sit and listen, not only to God in prayer, but to everyone around me. Mary challenges me to sit and be with people, whether I am at school socializing at lunchtime, or whether I am waiting for the slower person to get off the subway ahead of me. I don’t have to talk to people, but to be with them is to be patient with them, to listen to them if they want to talk, and most simply, to realize that crossing things off my to-do list does not trump everything else.

When I fall into this Martha-state I feel as though my soul is being sucked out. Focusing too much on my to-do list prevents me from being with people the way I want to be: being able to listen when someone is struggling, being able to enjoy myself at a community gathering, or simply taking the time to hold the door for the person walking behind me. Focusing too much on my to-do list leaves me cranky, and focused on what everyone is doing to me. This is not generally the way I am, or how I strive to live me life.

Nevertheless, living this way sucks the very joy from my soul, it sucks out the optimism and sometimes, when I’m really in Martha-mode, I lose sight of the big picture, why I’m actually studying, working the odd jobs, and volunteering. These things become the end in themselves: finish the reading as fast as I can so I can get on to the next thing, write this post quickly, so I can get started on Friday’s. Instead, Mary’s challenge asks me to find a new goal, which really isn’t new at all. Mary challenges me to sit and be with God in everything I do, and to realize that being with Him is the goal, whether that’s being patient with the people He created, or offering my study and volunteering as prayer. When I choose this, I know I’m choosing the better thing.

Trying to live this challenge,

Lauren

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The Most Important Things I Learned at Day Camp

Dear Pope Francis,

Sailor

Leading an expedition on the stormy Mediterranean Sea to find St. Paul

This is the first summer in four years that I haven’t worked for a day camp. There were two, one on the East Coast that I worked at for three summers, one summer as a councillor and two as director, and one in Toronto, where I was a councillor for one summer. I loved every minute of it! Both were Christian camps, although the one on the East Coast used a distinctly Catholic program.

As I think back over my years, I realized I learned a lot from working at camp. Here are the most important lessons:

  1. Having a plan is important, but so is throwing the plan out the window. When I arrived at my very first day at camp, I was all about the plan. I watched the clock, making sure that my sessions never went over time, and that the kids were always where they needed to be. It is important that someone keeps an eye on the clock, and has a plan, but as I very quickly learned that, when working with 20-60 kids, even the best laid plans get side tracked very quickly. It’s okay though, because usually when the plans get sidetracked is when the fun happens!
  2. Repetition is important. The first three summers at camp, we ran the same program in seven different locations, and by the end of the summer, the councillors could burst into any song, complete with actions, at any time, and act out the daily clip of the cartoon we showed the kids. By the time the end of the summer came, we were glad for the reprieve. But, there were days that those songs and stories would strike me in a different way. I would realize a new or deeper truth in the words I was singing, or connect with the stories differently. Since then, I relish the opportunity to hear my favourite bible passages again, or sing my favourite hymns again, but there is something new to discover.
  3. Full Car

    Packing up after a week at camp.

    Packing up the mess really isn’t the end. Because my first camp ran in different locations, every Friday we had to pack up and move all our supplies, which could sometimes be a pain (working at camp that stayed in one place only further proved this). But it didn’t matter whether we physically moved locations, or stayed in the same place and the kids moved on, the end of a camp session was sad. Every councillor bonded with certain kids and we all wished that we could bring them with us to the next location. But packing up the mess in one location meant that we could unpack it in a new location on Monday morning. Every week was a new adventure, with new kids to bond with, new jokes to share and new shenanigans to get into.

  4. The tough stuff will come and go. It doesn’t matter how big or small the group is, there will always be a few who test my nerves. Some weeks, there’s just a while lot of kids, and I could usually guess which weeks would have larger groups than others. I would dread those weeks, and arrive at camp Monday morning, with grit and determination to outlast these kids. I surviv would Monday and Tuesday, and then (yes!) it’s Wednesday, and there’s only two more days! Thursday would be a blur of prepping, and Friday had its own schedule which made the day fly by. Bam, the week is over! Like the tough weeks at camp, I can anticipate the tough or stressful times in my life (like the end of semester work crunch). Like the tough weeks at camp, I tackle the tough stuff head on. Sometimes, tough stuff lasts longer than a week, but being able to get through the tough weeks, means that I can get through the tough seasons of life, because they will have to end, it’s just a matter of when.
DSC02944

Breaking out my acting skills for a skit one of the kids wrote

And perhaps the most important thing that camp taught me is:

  1. Sink in and enjoy. The first summer I worked at camp, I was nervous. I wanted the kids to like me, but I was so worried about it, that I didn’t actually get to enjoy being with them. Over the next three summers, I realized that camp was a whole lot more fun when I relaxed and just enjoyed. Yes, I had responsibilities to take care of, but even when I had to take care of those, it all went much smoother when I sunk into the program and went with the flow (whether that included dressing up, letting kids style my hair or playing cards for hours on end). It’s a lot like life. When I stop worrying about who might be watching me (or worse, judging me), and just let myself be and enjoy what’s going on, then I have a whole lot more fun, and I get a whole lot more out of the experience.

 

Those are the five most important things that I learned at day camp. I learned lots of other important things (like how to snap my fingers in a Z-formation, and make friendship bracelets with embroidery string, and play Skip-Bo, one my favourite card game). In all of these things I learned at day camp, I realized that God is calling me to ministry, and that is definitely to most important thing I realized at day camp.

 

Breaking out some favourite camp songs and actions,

Lauren

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Letting God Work

Dear Pope Francis,

IMG_4874

Hanging out at the waterfront in my hometown

I have two very close friends at home, and sometimes we’d go for a walk and make God laugh by telling each other the plans we made for our lives. I don’t know if we actually made God laugh, but if there is one thing that I learned from those conversations, and my own life, it’s that generally when I make a plan, God has something else that’s much better in mind. Somehow, despite experiencing  this over and over in my life, and hearing about it happening in other people’s lives, I still have a hard (more like virtually impossible) time just letting go, and giving God the space to work.

I am reminded of all those evening strolls along the boardwalk, or late nights around the campfire for two reasons. One, I am feeling a little homesick for summer on the East Coast, with salt-water beaches, BBQ’s with family, and late night s’mores made with peanut butter cups (seriously, you need to try it!). Secondly, and more importantly, I don’t know where God is calling me right now.

I had this brilliant plan, that I’d find a job, work for a bit, go to Europe, come back, work some more, and then go home to the East Coast for a week or so. I’d get back just in time to start school and I’d have tons of great stories to tell my friends about my awesome summer. However, only some of that come to fruition. I went to Europe and came back. I’m not working anywhere yet, and I haven’t booked any flights home.

As school was ending, I had several things I had to sort out for the next year or so, most importantly classes, school-year employment, extra-curricular involvement, and summer employment. I distinctly remember praying that I trusted God to know what I needed for the coming months, and that He would take care of me. Now, here I am, in the middle of it, with the first three things more or less sorted out, but nothing for the next eight weeks.

My challenge right now is letting God have the space to do his work. I trust Him and His plan, however, it is so hard to let go and see what happens. Perhaps harder is letting go of my notions of that the next several weeks need to look like. Sure, I had a plan, and I’m already frustrated with myself for not working harder to make those plans happen. Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, I am reminded that God is going to take care of me, and that His plan is going to be great. That voice is hardly more than a whisper right now, and it is frequently drowned out by the voice telling me that I’ve failed because I don’t have a job for the summer, or the voice that is encouraging me to run away from the problems that not having a job poses. These voices are also making it incredibly difficult to do something meaningful with this time, like settle into work on my writing projects or get a jump start on some school work. These things aren’t meant to be my primary activities, they are going against my plan.

DSC02109

Watching the sunset as the fire gets going for a night of s’mores and stories

I don’t want to put words in God’s mouth, but if I can let go of my pre-conceived notions of what the summer is supposed to be, then maybe I’ll leave some space for God to speak, and I’ll find out what he actually has planned.

Trying to let go (which is easier said than done),

Lauren

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The volunteer industry

Dear Pope Francis,

Ask and you shall receive. I got hired as a server with a local catering company yesterday and as long as I do well tonight and tomorrow they’ll keep scheduling me. I’m pretty sure it’s just part time, but it’s such a relief to have a job again and know I’ll have some income.

As an aspiring writer interested in ministry, looking for work sometimes feels like an exercise in futility. Most of the jobs I really want to be doing want more training or experience and the only way to get the experience without spending more money I don’t have on education is by volunteering. I like volunteering my time with the church and not-for-profits and I think the experience from volunteering is hugely valuable in terms of getting experience for a career and even more so in terms of personal growth.

What’s been a challenge for me is trying to figure out the balance between doing what I love and volunteering for these unpaid opportunities and finding work that meets the right-now needs of income to pay off a credit card full of moving expenses and money for transportation to those opportunities here.

The experience also has me thinking a lot about the mindset of the not for profit industry. I know a few people working in unpaid internships for charities which raise money for valuable causes such as AIDS research, education for women and girls around the world, disaster relief. Then there are the friends who work for minimum wage in jobs funded through government grants doing outreach, communications and fundraising for other charities. (Full disclosure, similar grants provided the funding for my summer jobs all the way through university.)

Global Volunteer Month @Morgan Stanley

What these friends all have in common is a genuine desire to make a difference in the world, a need for experience in their chosen field, and a tendency to work second and third minimum wage jobs so they can afford to work for these organizations. When we talk, they laugh about how it’s just how it is if you want to do good in the world. You have to be willing to work 70 hours a week and juggle back-to-back shifts between the cause you’re working for and the reality of needing food and shelter, not to mention money to pay back gargantuan student loans.

This really bothers me, because what I’m seeing is a lot of organizations taking advantage of the belief that volunteering for the experience a) means more money is available to go directly to the people the charity is helping and b) better equips you to get paid work in the field. Shouldn’t the not-for-profit industry also be interested in a sustainable workforce?

Working for free in unpaid internships or for minimum wage doesn’t give employees of the industry any concept of what their time might actually be worth in the private sector. When they eventually burn out from the strain of multiple jobs and volunteering they’re not equipped with the knowledge of what kind of salary they should be asking for when they do get offered a job elsewhere.

I’m still trying to sort out what I think a good solution would be. The current reality just doesn’t seem right.

Meredith

Thank you Volunteers cake.

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Saying hello

Dear Pope Francis,

Just a short note today because I am not digging unemployment and spending most of my time trying to change that. Mostly I wanted to say thank you for thinking of the un- and underemployed in your intentions for this month and share a story about saying hello.

Last Thursday, I woke up to the sound of clinking bottles as an old man rummaged through the recycling bins at the curb for collection. It was a weird moment of collision between two worlds.

When I was living in New Brunswick, one of the guys I dated would throw plastic bottles out his car window along the road into town. I would be mad he was littering, he would justify it as giving five cents to one of the people who made their living walking around collecting bottles and cans for recycling.

When I mentioned the old man to Lauren, she wasn’t surprised. It’s a common thing where she comes from. It wasn’t strange to me that there was a man with a shopping cart collecting glass bottles from the bins. When I would go to the bottle depot in Fredericton with the recycling from my apartment there was usually a few people there with similar setups. The strangeness came from seeing the man in the middle-class suburban neighbourhood my parents live in.

One of my siblings went off on a rant about how “people like that” should get real jobs instead of stealing from others. I was really confused by the outrage. How could it be stealing for this man to take what we clearly weren’t keeping? How is it not a job for him to go out and collect the glass bottles and return them for the 10 cent refund we don’t value enough to get ourselves?

More than my confusion over my sibling’s outrage was the strangeness of realizing there are poor and homeless people everywhere. They don’t stop existing outside of Toronto where I’m used to seeing people panhandle on the streets and where I know about the soup kitchens and shelters. They don’t stop existing outside of small town New Brunswick where there’s not much work to be had.

When my sister came to help me move from New Brunswick back to Ontario last month, one of the things we talked about during the drive was poverty. It bothered me to be told people are poor or homeless because they made bad choices. The simultaneous dismissal of the fact that there is a human being sitting on the cold ground asking for money for a coffee and judgement of that person for being in the situation in the first place. The idea that it’s not my fault and so it’s not my problem.

“Give to everyone who begs from you, and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.” (Luke 6:30)

I used to walk past the panhandlers I would see in the streets of Toronto when I lived there. I remember getting frustrated initially by how long it would take to walk anywhere with my SERVE brother Mike because he saw everyone. Every person we passed he would stop and say hello to. I don’t remember if he ever gave them money, but I never forgot how he always stopped. I wasn’t comfortable stopping to say hello at first. Then I started noticing how people smiled. Even if I didn’t have anything to give, it mattered so much to be acknowledged.

Hello. We use it as a greeting, but what it really means is “I see you.” When someone greets you, it means you exist.

–Meredith

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It’s like a crazy trust exercise

Dear Pope Francis,

trusting god is an actionAbout a month ago, I made the decision to move back to Ontario over the Victoria Day weekend for a job I didn’t (and still don’t) know if I would get or not. Making the decision brought a sense of relief and sureness just from knowing what I was doing next, even though I had no idea if the whole plan would work or not.

Since then, it’s been a combination of excitement and trepidation about the move. I’m really excited to go home and to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing in the Toronto area. I don’t know if that job is what it is or not, but I feel the most sure about WHERE I’m supposed to be than I’ve felt about anything since I handed in my application for the journalism program four years ago.

I’m looking forward to being near family again, to reconnecting with old friends, and to making some new ones. I’m pumped that for the first time in our three years as friends Lauren and I are going to live in the same province AND within an hour of each other.

It’s also really nerve-wracking to be tying up all my loose ends in Fredericton. I leave in three weeks and haven’t found a sub-letter for my apartment. I’ve given notice at my jobs and started bringing home boxes at the end of every shift so in theory I can start packing. (Nothing is packed yet.)

I have a lot of friends here I want to make sure I see before I leave, and there’s a few I’m especially close with who I’m going to miss seeing every few days.

A lot of people have been asking me what I’ll do if I don’t get this job at my home parish, and frankly I have no sweet clue. Not having a backup plan is the scariest part about this. The only other time in my life I’ve not had a backup plan was when I applied for the journalism program. It was terrifying then, and it’s terrifying now.

anna and kristoff crazy trust exerciseBoth times it feels like a crazy trust exercise. I know God’s going to catch me, but the edge of the cliff is shaped funny so I can’t see him at the bottom and I just have to jump.

But that was the plan. Move to Fredericton for a program I couldn’t be accepted to until I was done a year and a half of school and at no point feel good enough about another discipline to want to finish the degree if I didn’t get in.

In a stroke of genius or stupidity, I specifically asked my 16 year old sister to fly down to keep me company on the drive home. We haven’t kept in touch as much as my other siblings and my parents and I have, so I’m ensuring four days of bonding over heavy lifting and errands, at least 18 hours on the road with only each other for company, and a lot of meals in restaurants.

I’m feeling really good about my planning for getting from Fredericton to Toronto. But while I’m landing safe at home, it feels like I’ll be entering into a whole new kind of free-fall at the same time.

Please please please please please.

Meredith

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Direction and the luxury of time

Dear Pope Francis,

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently been off work because of an injury. I was employed almost full time housekeeping at a local hotel as well as part-time as a reporter for a local radio station. Because of the work I was doing I managed to strain all the muscles in my right arm and wreck most of the tendons in my wrist. DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis, so not a fun time.

After six and a half weeks off, twice daily anti-inflammatory drugs and a ton of ice, I finally got to go back to work this week. I’ve been moved from housekeeping to serving banquets, which has a lot less hours but is far superior to unemployment.

Yana's_fob_watch

Being able to use my hand enough to work again was an answer to a prayer. In retrospect, so was the time off. I have a really hard time recognizing my limits. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt driven to do things; but I’ve rarely had the luxury of spending time just figuring out what I wanted to do.

I did not spend six weeks just thinking. For the first two weeks I read a book cover-to-cover every day. Over the next month I watched a lot of Dr. Who on Netflix, and ripped through the first three seasons of Breaking Bad. I complained about being stuck in the house a lot, and I whined about all things I normally do for myself that I couldn’t do (washing dishes, folding socks, baking, knitting, video games, writing.)

I spent some time in prayer, but most of it was just “pretty please let me move my hand without yelping in pain” and “please get Worker’s Comp to make a decision on my claim and cut me a cheque.” As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t exactly gracious about the time off.

Once I was able to type for longer than 15 minutes without needing ice, I started searching the job banks for potential careers. This was particularly discouraging and for about a week a source of great angst.

As a recent university graduate there’s a lot of pressure to get started in a career, specifically, one which is somehow related to my fields of study and pays well enough to pay off my mortgage student loan. Some of the pressure is coming from my parents, some of it from my peers, but most of it is coming from me.

After I got over angsting about the total lack of entry level jobs, I realized part of my problem was I was looking for jobs which fit what I expected of myself as a journalism major instead of jobs that fit what I wanted for myself. This was promptly followed by a freak-out about how I had no idea what I wanted.

When I wrote my letter of intent for my journalism application in my second year of university I focused on the people whose stories I wanted to tell and my involvement with the community. I didn’t mention I thought the program provided the most practical skill sets I could get from a liberal arts education until I was interviewing to be the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper a year and a half later.

When I think about what I want for myself, being a reporter doesn’t come in to the picture much anymore. I’m good at it, but I haven’t loved it since experiencing the ugly side of political journalism and public opinion during my last year of university.

Since the New Year I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about whether not wanting to be a reporter anymore is just being chicken. I don’t think it is. I think I’ve finally recognized where the limit to what I can cope with is, and for the first time in my life I’m respecting the limit and looking for alternatives.

I love talking to people and making their stories, both good and bad accessible. I can do that by organizing fundraising events for a charity whose mission I share. I can use my writing and audio-video editing skills towards bringing in more volunteers and money to expand on current programs. I can get back to choosing work which needs me to serve others, and puts the attention on them and what they’ve done or experienced rather than on me and how I told the story.

For now I’ll continue to serve at banquets and pick up shifts reporting for the local radio station. Rent needs to be paid and groceries need to be bought. I’ll pray for God to give me an obvious sign pointing me to where I need to go, and keep applying for jobs at charities and organizations involved with vulnerable populations.

Content to serve,

Meredith

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