In the midst of frantically applying for graduate schools and jobs following my graduation from college, I stumbled upon Urban Ministry Center’s website. I figured since I was new to Charlotte, I could get to know the community by volunteering. However, I never expected to begin my post graduate career here- and I never expected it to change my life.
Urban Ministry‘s website caught my eye because in college I had worked with the homeless population and was really passionate about the Housing First movement. After more research, I realized that UMC was hiring for a year-long AmeriCorps VISTA position. I decided to apply on a whim and I thought, just maybe, this could be my next step instead. In a society full of young adults feeling intense pressure to succeed and make money, I didn’t really think I would start my career at a nonprofit. But fate, thank goodness, stepped in.
A few months later, I started working as the new Development Resource VISTA and I’ve had no doubts this past year that Urban Ministry Center is exactly where I am supposed to be. As a young adult, I feel like I have gained such a valuable perspective on life through this experience- one that many people my age don’t have. I am now so grateful each day for simple things- my bed, my shoes, my dry socks, my daily shower.
Upon reflection on my year that is slowly coming to a close, I have realized just how unexpectedly blessed I have been by the men and women yet to be housed that Urban Ministry serves every day.
In September, I underwent surgery on my hip which left me on crutches for several weeks. During that time, every morning I would be inundated with questions of genuine concern when I walked in the door … “What happened?”… “Are you okay?” Throughout my recovery, neighbors would tell me, “I’m praying for you” or would encourage me by saying, “You’ll be back to running marathons next week!” The concern and compassion that the neighbors had for me blew me away. It amazed me that individuals dealing with so much pain and suffering were encouraging me through my difficult time. It made me understand that compassion truly has no bounds. To this day, I still have neighbors asking how my hip is recovering.
In addition, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the most passionate and sincere group of professionals I have ever met. The staff at Urban Ministry is so genuine, so sincere, and so kind. They truly want to help their friends, their neighbors, solve their homelessness. After a year of working with this staff, I have the utmost respect for what they do. It’s incredible that they wake up every morning with renewed energy and strength, ready to walk into our 8:20AM check-in meetings with a smile on their face, no matter the circumstances.
I’ve also realized this year that with privilege and perspective, comes responsibility. I was privileged to grow up in a supportive family, graduate high school, and get a college education. Not everyone is granted those simple privileges. Because I have been so blessed, I feel it’s now my purpose to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves.
This May, I’m saying goodbye to Urban Ministry Center to pursue a graduate degree in mental health and addiction counseling. With this degree I hope to continue to serve this underserved population. This place has left a permanent mark on me, and I hope you get a chance one day to have it leave a mark on you.