Never have I clung so desperately to a cliché as I did to “faith makes anything possible” in the first week of my work at the Virginia Theological Seminary. In that week I was, in equal parts, social media guru, help desk coordinator, catering organizer, and coffee girl. Small tasks, no doubt, but ones requiring some modicum of knowledge nonetheless. Suffice it to say, I knew nothing.
Thankfully, that was a non-issue as far as the conference coordinators were concerned. At that point, Kyle Oliver, Lisa Kimball, and John Roberto knew two things which I did not: that the community at VTS is kind, knowledgeable, and efficient and that, in fact, I could do the things they asked of me, if only because of the aforementioned community. I was torn between the unshakable faith that Kyle, Lisa, and John had in me and my own tentative faith in myself. No job was too large, no task too complicated, no responsibility too great. And I’d only known these people for 24 hours.
The e-Formation 2013 Conference began on Friday, May 31. My work at VTS began on Thursday, May 30th. I worked long days, and I learned as I went, and it was the best new job training I’ve ever had. The recurrent theme in every interaction of the weekend was kindness. I was consistently impressed by it; kindness permeated every workshop, service, and interaction, and it was under such friendly auspices that my work at VTS has been blessed.
If the e-Formation Conference was rushing rapids, the weeks following have been a meandering brook. Gone are the frenzied moments between sessions, and no longer is my presence required in more than one place at a given time. The kindness, though, has remained.
As both a Northerner and a Roman Catholic, hospitality is not unfamiliar to me, but I am certainly accustomed to a less effusive brand of it. As such, it’s jarring to have such broad displays of affection directed at me, and so frequently, but truly it has been an unexpected blessing. I will always appreciate the taciturn nature of my native Vermonters. When I attend Mass with my Grandmother in Massachusetts, I will make no attempt to sit closer than ten rows from the altar. But none of that will stop me from reveling in the exceptional kindness of the wonderful people at VTS.
I am, slowly but hopefully surely, becoming more used to the blessings bestowed upon me, the thanks for difficult tasks, the smiles on the sidewalks and the kind words. As I grow into this community, I realize how remarkable it is. To experience the glowing hospitality of the entire Seminary is a rare treat; it informs my decisions outside of VTS as well as within, to the extent that I believe that everyone ought to have it. Kindness the likes of which exists here is a human right.
As I think back on my first weeks at VTS, I wonder how I managed to find these people; these wonderful, kind, thoughtful people have made a home for me among their ranks. Have you ever felt the same warmth in a new job? Found gratification not only in the work that you do, but also in the people you’re working with? If not, your light is coming; seek it out. If so, make it your job to transfer that warmth to your coworkers. Bring that light with you wherever you go.
Often times, e-Formation is a thankless task. There’s so much to weed through on the Internet that it’s difficult to imagine that anybody could be seeking out your blog (but they are… or at least I am, it’s kind of my job). Without the faith that Kyle, Lisa, and John had in me, I would have snoozed my alarm and shut the blinds on May 31st, desperate to avoid the reality of e-Formation insanity. But they were there, and they believed in me, and so I was there and I believed in myself. Give that gift to your faith formation friends, volunteers, employees, and conscripts. In keeping with the theme of terrible clichés, be the wind beneath their wings. You can do it. I have faith.
We asked our summer intern, Isabella, to reflect on her first month or so of working in our faith formation resource center. Here is her story. Cross-posted on the e-Formation blog.