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A week into my time in Seattle, and I feel like I am expecting a lot from the next seven weeks already. It’s okay though, because I think the experience here will be able to deliver – in some ways, it has already. Here’s what I’m hoping these next two months will bring.
I’m hoping to get a glimpse of what it is like to market a cause, to be a voice behind an idea through media, advertising and programming. I’m also hoping to learn much more about a key issue in social justice, one where communication is critical in order to empower people to want to help. It’ll be an informative experience working a full schedule here, getting familiar with nuances of life in the nonprofit sector, and learning from individuals who are motivated by a common goal. I hope I will be able to contribute to that goal even if I’m here to learn for just a few weeks. I’ve been struck by several first impressions of the organization after orientation and the first few days: the scope and reach of the organization, the generosity of the mission statement, and the needs of the people that we serve.
This organization is big. It was only after I’d met all the staff at my location, traveling to other locations, and getting an overview of everything that goes on, that I truly realized how many people get help across the state of Washington. Additionally, the fact that everything runs with so few full time staff speaks volumes to both the dedication of those staff as well as the importance of volunteers in the process. Without volunteers and donors, everyday individuals who are inclined to care about people other than themselves, the operation would be overwhelmed, because not even the most dedicated small group of individuals can tackle the world’s biggest problems like hunger or poverty or sickness, on their own. The power of one when standing alone is minimal, but the effect of that individual’s power is multiplied when it is part of a collective – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You don’t help feed an entire state without an organized structure and a lot of people who are willing to make sacrifices to fit into that structure.
The structure here is something I’m very impressed with, in a large part because part of the mission implements what I would term an upside-down social model of serving people. Why is it upside down? Because I think it goes against the social norm of self-interest. It is human nature to look for what you can get from somebody first before determining if it is worth it to give something to them. It is custom to get before giving. However, the first thing that happens here when somebody walks in is not the getting, but rather the giving. Instead of asking for something from people, in this case client information (which is very valuable to any entity that works with people) before distributing food, the food is distributed first without putting any obligations on the people receiving it. No questions asked up front, just service. It’s challenging – without statistics and numbers, one could put forth a convincing argument that it’s much harder to run an operation with as much efficiency. But here it isn’t about statistics and numbers as much as it is about individual respect and an unconditional generosity that I rarely see in people, much less in an organization (even those in social justice). I strongly believe there’s something to be said about putting people’s comfort and well-being first, and treating them with the utmost respect, even if that means making certain sacrifices in what you get. You could call it craziness, but I would just prefer calling it backwardness. It’s beautiful, and I think and hope it’s something that people might just be willing to buy into in the future.
The needs of the state, the country, and the world have never been greater than they are now, and it’s striking to be so close to people who are in need every day. I’m hoping to spend some serving those who have been less privileged than I have been, both directly and through my work and the knowledge and skills I gain as an intern. I hope to come out of the experience a better communicator, more informed about marketing and advertising practices, and with a greater understanding of what it takes to accomplish a goal by being resourceful and efficient with what I’ve been given. I hope to be more confident in my abilities to talk to people and express my thoughts in a convincing and coherent manner. Most importantly though, I hope to continue growing my perspective of the world, to continue to learn to care about others before myself, not just as a hobby or a weekend activity, but as a career and a lifestyle, whatever path I may choose to take in the future.
( Seattle/Events/Travel Blog: phoenixflips.tumblr.com)