Category Archives: Life as a Volunteer

Generational gaps and such

I think the best part of my experience here has been the thing that causes everyone confusion: living with older men and working with older women.

Most people question how I cope with the generational gap and others commend on what a lovely learning experience I’m having. To them, I get this wonderful honor of living with the elderly and learning nuggets of wisdom from them.

I agree, but the hilarity in all of this is the gemstones that I have left them with.

  1. Justin Timberlake. For sure, there are three Christian Brothers who not only know of Justin Timberlake’s existence, but can recognize his face! They pay attention to headlines about him and even have seen scenes of his movies. Occasionally, if the radio is in my favor, they even get to hear his angelic voice. They’ve even saved magazine clippings with photos of him.
  2. Simple functions such as “CTRL + C/V” or—a big favorite—“CTRL + P”. These are moments I’m most proud of. You can teach anyone how to turn a computer on and fire up the internet. But it takes determination of the student (above the age of 70) to retain the knowledge of quick commands. You’re welcome, world.
  3. An update to modern slang. Imagine explaining to a dear friend who is a nun that the word pussy isn’t always in reference to a feline. Furthermore, imagine having to explain the phrase “will eat pussy for weed or booze”. *face palm*
  4. The wobble. Although this reference really dates back to that time I taught my grandma and her cousin how to wobble, I found myself teaching another group of older women. Everyone loves a good group number, I tell ya.
  5. Cell phone tutorials. These range from turning the phone from vibrateà sound to explaining how to add a calendar event on the iPhone 5s’ new OS. I even taught a nun/massage therapist how to amplify her Pandora station by just using a cup. Amazement all around.
  6. Everyday cat knowledge. In a city where stray cats outnumber the amount of homeless people, basic cat knowledge is a must. No Charles, you cannot feed a cat an onion. Yes, she will eat scrambled eggs with cheese. Don’t worry guys, she’s not being aggressive she just happens to be vocal. Side note: lasers are an absolute party must have.
  7. Selfies on selfies. Although, most of their knowledge of selfies actually comes from watching the news, they’ve learned the art through me. Nuances such as lighting and the perfect angle to maximize the number of people squeezed into one selfie. Followers of blogs and Facebook pages owe their laughs to me.

 

Until next time,
Miss Enlund ;]

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Communication 101

The most important task I have at my job is “mingling” with the guests. Although seemingly easy, this is one of the harder parts of anyone’s experience at the center.  I thought I’d have this role in the bag because I love chatting it up with anyone and almost everyone.

But there are some conversational phrases that frankly suck when you work with the homeless population.

I’m a big fan of the following conversational openers: “How’s your life?”, “How are you doing today?”, “What was for dinner?”, “What did you do last night.”

Welcome to the awkward world of Miss Enlund, the volunteer.  I’ve quickly learned that these phrases just can’t be used at work.  They warrant some colorful answers occasionally, but often they just make you feel two inches tall and you have to creatively back out of the situation you walked into.

But thank the Lord for those with a sense of humor and the willingness to talk.

During these accidental moments is where I have found the great hope that made me fall in love with New Orleans.  The people here are so strong and so hopeful. I learn about the smallest things that impact their new lifestyles.  It’s in these conversations that they reflect on the circumstances that lead them to this point in their life and they talk about their change in perspective.

What’s really cool about my job is how these ice breaker conversations grow over time.  I think what is so unique about the center that I work at is the level or relationship between staff and guest.  There are guests that come around every so many months, there are daily guests, and there are “success-story” guests who come back for a visit or to say thank you.  The interactions between these guests and staff include conversations about family and specific memories. It really is so special to each of the guests that they have a connection with, at least, one person to realize that they are still cared about.

There is a group of gentlemen that have found one another and stick together.  They watch each others’ backs and have developed a great sense of camaraderie. Although they often arrive at the center in different waves, there is always a point in the day in which they are all together.  I have a great connection with each of them, but I love talking to them as a whole.  They bounce off one another and share their stories with such lightheartedness.  They all genuinely listen to each other as well.  I think it’s so beautiful that they’ve found each other because they are all from different states and each has a very different story.  Between them, however, is a beautiful understanding, level of trust, and almost a brotherhood.  They support each other and encourage the other to stay away from trouble and to do what they have to in order to move forward.

And they keep me in the loop…

I’m forever overwhelmed with the emotion of love for those I work with. I’m so grateful for this experience.

Until next time ;]
Miss Enlund

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GivingTuesday

The good news is I have a FEW pending posts that I’m still working on!  So I haven’t failed entirely on my challenge of writing more.  The better news is that I have begun co-writing for the blog of the center I work at!  What makes me even more excited is that I’m able to put my passion and skills to work by convincing the women that I work for to step into the online platform for their non-profit.

Mixed into all of that I’ll be taking on a new writing challenge: writing the stories of the guests that I serve.  I’m thrilled about this different approach to writing and I look forward to connecting with the guests on a personal level and learn more about them.  Although it took some bumps and bruises to learn the ropes of the center, I’m beginning to figure out my purpose and my place–and I’m loving it!

One idea that I brought to the table and have been granted to permission to run with it, is to have the guests, staff, and volunteers of the Rebuild Center take part in the social movement of #GivingTuesday.  I learned about it yesterday and its safe to say that I’ve become OBSESSED with this brand new holiday.  #GivingTuesday follows the chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a kickoff to the season of giving…back!  Service is evidently an important part of my life, and this is a really cool social movement that is bringing service to the forefront and reminding people to help others (to learn more about #GivingTuesday click the image).

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Isn’t that why we’re put on this earth?

My idea is to have the guests, volunteers, and staff take part in the #UNselfie hashtag by creating signs on why they serve, or why its important to serve.  What I’ve urged our guests to do is offer the perspective of “how important it is to benefit from service, love, and kindness”.  Most of the unselfies that are being posted are about why people are motivated to give back–I decided to provide the motivation.

To see more of the project for work, check out http://lanternlight.org/

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Damnit! I lost the challenge…again.

And for that matter—the game.

I promised myself I would write more and share my experiences here in New Orleans.  I have failed in doing so thus far.  I will continue to challenge myself in bringing forward my story and the stories of those around me.

This last month has driven me crazy.  I realized that while I was at school I kept myself way busier than I had even realized.  In those four years I would lay down to go to bed…and I would go to bed. I was THAT tired. I was never plagued by this “mind running a mile a minute” nonsense before bed. How could I waste my time on reflecting and/or worrying?  In fact, I’m almost certain at the time I had thought I was bizarre because I never planned too far ahead or thought of anything outside of a four-week span.

LOL, hey there reality check.

I can’t even say that since my last post I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I think I’ve been struck with a real strong case of the feels. SO MANY DAMN EMOTIONS have been occurring. You name it, I’ve felt it:  Longing, sadness, anger, joy, elatedness, fear, anxiety, laziness, motivated, concern, fear, unwanted, fear..have I mentioned fear?!

I wish I could even voice what I’m afraid of. I can’t tell if it’s the future, the past, the present, the city, the people, the lack of a love life. Who knows?  Amidst all of that, I’m strangely happy.  I feel like I’m in the right place doing what I need to be doing.  Part of me wishes I was doing more, whatever more is. I keep reminding myself that it’s absolutely okay to have time to read leisurely.

So, I’m upping the challenge for myself. I tried to get myself into the routine of one blog post a week.   I think I’ll up it to two.  My hope is that the increased challenge will push me to write more. Here’s to writing and the feels.

Until next time ;]
Miss Enlund

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t know if I like being 22

It’s this incredibly vague area where everyone agrees it’s time to grow up and its acceptable to make mistakes…so long as they aren’t deemed overly immature or irresponsible because you’re 22 now so you’re supposed to be getting your head on straight.

Or something like that?

As T-Swift (or T-Swizzle, as I like it) has proclaimed “we’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical”…oh no. Miserable, I’ll agree…magical, not so much.  I can’t even pinpoint how I feel at this stage of my life because I’m so damn overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions and plans.

You know how you catch yourself pondering life on almost every vacation you go to?  I’m not sure why this phenomenon takes place, but I feel (at least for me) that it happens every time I stay in a place for a few days that isn’t my home.  So, try to imagine what the hell I’m going through at this point in my life.  I’m 22 with no idea who I’m supposed to be and I just moved to a place far away and I’m not busy anymore.  I’m constantly comparing everything I’m experiencing here to everything I’ve experienced in my short 22 years of life.  I’m also trying to soak in much more than the sun down here, but its overwhelming as all hell.

I guess I’m whining because I really have no idea what’s going on and I can’t determine if that’s okay or not.  I’m trying to gauge if my peers are in a stable part in their life, but I can’t tell if they’re bs-ing the interweb or just avoiding the truth of life as well.  Wah, being this whiny is for the birds. I just want to have life figured out because I LOATHE this learning curve bullshit.

Until next time ;]
Miss Enlund

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Four guys and two little ladies

So more on my current living situation

I’m 22, just graduated from college and I live with one of my best friends and four other guys. The thing is, three of those guys are over the age of 65 and are committed to religious life.

Now one might ask, “Why in God’s name are you living with 3 OLD MEN?!”

I am one of the proudest alumnus of Iona College (Class of 2013), which is a small private institution that was founded by the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers.  For a long time Iona was run by the Brothers and almost every one of them have studied at Iona.  A few still teach and many of the Brothers still live in community around the campus.  This is how I was introduced to this congregation.

I wanted to do a year of service (specifically in New Orleans) after I went on a Mission Trip through my school in 2012. The city is unlike any city I’ve been to and the people are so…there just isn’t a word to describe the wonderful people of Naw’lins. While on the trip, we visited the house that I am now living in.  We learned that the three Brothers open their home and life of community to three volunteers each year. I knew that evening we’d met them that I would be a volunteer in that house one day.

So now, here I am.  The other boy I live with is also an Iona grad.  In fact, he was my Mission Trip leader and he moved down here last year to volunteer.  He loved it so much so that he stayed for round two.  Most of what I’ll be talking about from now on will be anecdotes of life with three Christian Brothers, the service that I’m taking part in, trials and tribulations of living on the Big Easy, and (of course) mentions of Justin Timberlake.

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Post-Grad Probs

What did you do after you graduated college?

I went home for three weeks (the longest amount of time I had spent in my home in three years).  Attempted to visit the local watering hole and realized that I’m just not about that life anymore.

Then I went to work for a summer camp of sorts.  I pictured it being an UH-MAZING summer job; hanging out with foreign kids, running around New York City, and giving them a remarkable and memorable experience in the states.  I would blog about our travels and the funny misunderstandings that inevitably take place between a kid from Estonia and a kid from Brazil.  Most of the above happened minus the blogging.  I didn’t expect the job to be so damn exhausting.  I also didn’t expect to have a staff that partied just as hard as they worked (which I’m insanely thankful for). This part of my summer ended all too quickly, unfortunately.

So I went back home for three weeks (as if I didn’t hate the first go around enough—sorry Mom). I focused on prepping for my second trip to the Legends of the Summer Tour with mi madre and finishing up the masterful artwork that is my walls. I also spent a lot of time freaking out and essentially hating the fact that I was no longer in college.  I think I spent a week in my room…straight.  I should have spent more time packing and prepping for the MOST GIGANTIC MOVE OF MY LIFE…at least thus far.

Just about a week ago I flew down to New Orleans to begin my year-long commitment to service and living in community with three Edmund Rice Christian Brothers.  In my last posting about people having the control over decisions, that’s what I was referencing. I’m an absolute weirdo, so I don’t often talk about big situations when they’re brewing, in fear that I’ll compromise the outcome.  Thankfully, the Brothers accepted me into their volunteer program in one of the greatest cities this country has to offer.

What I’m most excited about is this experience schedules plenty of time for reflection and chillin (unlike the last four years of my life).   This means I’ll finally be able to uphold the one thing I’ve been trying to get my ass in gear with: writing consistently.  So be prepared for insights into religious life, living with two volunteers who I went to college with, and what life in New Orleans for a non-native is like.  And of course, anything pertaining to Justin Timberlake ;]  Although, for my fan psychoticness—check out my fan blog on Tumblr.

So here’s to peace and new beginnings!

Miss Enlund ;]

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