This year the Community Service and Religious Life staff have been reading different passages from the book “This I Believe,” which offers different perspectives about values and stories of others. As they dive into the second semester, they have reflected upon the different stories they have read, along with the experiences they have had in their work this year. What do they believe? Below are reflections written by Heather Gesit and Rachel Jordan on what they believe.
Heather Geist ’15
I believe in taking the time to listen. Every individual has a story – a piece of their background that they carry with them. Some people wear their story on their sleeve and share it openly, while others keep it tucked safely away. And then there are others who don’t always remember.
The residents of the Thornwald Home have such personality. As I started my sophomore year of college, I knew that this nursing home was where I would be working, but I knew nothing much about it. After an initial rocky start to the new community service program that we created at Dickinson College, I began attending weekly to help, along with other students, in the large Wednesday night activities. Playing games with the residents is always something fun, but in the hustle and bustle of organizing, conducting, and concluding the games, I still wasn’t getting the chance to know who these people I was working with really were.
After bowling one night (an extremely popular event), I was escorting some residents back to their rooms. I sent one particular resident on her way to walk back, while I wheeled another resident to her specific room for the evening. While I was walking back to return to the multi-purpose area, I saw the woman I had sent back earlier searching around. Now, she is truly a woman of character and cracks jokes all the time, but in that moment I saw confusion and concern. After joking with her for a few moments as I guided her back to her room, I paused outside the door where some pictures of her and her family were sitting in a shadow box.I always thought it was better not to take the time and ask about the resident’s past, because of the off chance they wouldn’t remember, which could cause them some distress. I decided to take my chances and asked her about the animals and people in the pictures. In the moment I stepped out and decided that it was worth the time to hear her story, I heard anecdotes and recollections coming from someone who couldn’t even remember her current room number. The most powerful moment in all of the conversation was her smile – the smile that didn’t leave for a full 10 minutes as she shared about her children, husband and pets. I heard the silly stories, the things she missed the most, but I didn’t see any of the forgetfulness as I had moments earlier.
I don’t know what this resident may have gotten out of our conversation, but I do know that I learned a lot about a woman I hadn’t known in this way before, and for those few minutes, she remembered some of the happiest moments in her life. Every individual has a story to tell, and if there is one thing I have learned through my experiences this year, it is to take the time to listen.
Rachel Jordan ’13
The last few weeks of my junior year, after applying for numerous research positions throughout the Northeast and being rejected from every one, my mother said, “Why don’t you email the Dickinson professors in the biology department?” I assured her that all the professors had already had their summer research students for months now, and that emailing them would be a waste of time. In all her wisdom, she said, “There’s no harm in trying.” I sent out several emails that night to professors, totaling about 30 minutes of time out of my day. Within the next 2 days, I was matched up with a Dickinson biology professor happy to add another student to his team, and by the end of the week I was squared away with on-campus summer housing and a stipend.
Whenever I reflect on my experiences within the Montgomery Service Leaders program, and previously the Bonner Leaders program, I can’t help but remember that I almost didn’t try. As a freshman only several weeks into college, I was sure that joining the program would be too much of a time commitment on top of playing a sport and being a science major. However, my mother persuaded me to just fill out the application and go from there. If I felt like it was too much later on, I could always drop it. Although there have been times I can’t believe how many things I have committed to, Montgomery has truly been one of the most rewarding programs I could have joined at Dickinson. I have done 3 years worth of work with non-profits, 2 service trips to New Orleans, and 1 AmeriCorp term. It has also allowed me the opportunity to be the Senior Intern.
As you can probably assume at this point, I was hesitant to apply for the Senior Intern position. I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle the hours and responsibilities required, especially in the Spring when I was in-season. However, I had had a desire to hold the position and take on more of a leadership role within the program since I had joined as a freshman. I’m very glad that I took my mother’s advice and just tried.
I have learned so much from my position as the Senior Intern this year, gaining confidence in leading meetings, building my decision making skills, and developing my time management abilities. Throughout the year, I have had to push myself to try new things, even if they were outside my comfort zone, including leading group activities, revising and creating new aspects of the program, and making tough decisions. It has been an indescribable experience, and I think about how much I would have missed out on if I hadn’t pushed myself to just try, whether it be leading a meeting, applying for the Senior Intern position, or applying for Bonner/MSL at all.
Therefore, I will continue, throughout the rest of this semester and beyond graduation, to force myself to step outside my comfort zone and reap the benefits of trying new things that don’t seem possible at first. The moral of the story is there’s no harm in trying. Or maybe it’s to always listen to your mother (just don’t tell her I said that).