Spirituality, Social Justice, Community & Simplicity for a Lifetime
The goal for Good Shepherd Volunteers is to serve others who might not have had a fortunate start to their life. We try to tackle the social issues of the world by sticking to our four tenets of Spirituality, Social Justice, Community, and Simplicity. In my position at the Good Shepherd Shelter I do my best to use these four tenets to truly engage myself with my kids and staff.
Spirituality. Spirituality is something that has not been a huge part of my life, but since starting Good Shepherd Volunteers I am starting to understand my own spirituality a lot more. I have started listening to music during my days to help create a soothing spirit within me, this keeps me calm and at peace when my days turn chaotic. At work we talk about how sometimes when we feel lost we turn to the Good Shepherd and hope He guides us in the right direction. When things become overwhelming my co-workers believe God works in mysterious ways, and that the best is just around the corner. I have learned to be patient and maybe if something doesn’t work out right away it always has a way of working itself out. Relying and reflecting on my spirituality has taught me to be patient with myself, and to stop and appreciate God’s creation around me.
Social Justice. Social Justice is something practiced daily at my placement. At the shelter we are constantly helping our moms and kids with court dates, benefits, school etc. Most things we help them with they had been deprived where they were previously. Every day is a constant battle to help them find their individuality and equality. We take pride in holidays that revolve around social justice and take any opportunity we can to teach our kids about diversity, equality, rights etc. I have tried my best to take away all bias’ and stereotypes that I might have had previous to this year. Working here has definitely been helpful in doing that. I want the world to realize that when a person meets someone they automatically think they know their whole story based on appearance, when they really know nothing about them. All first assumptions someone might make about other people are limiting their life, and other people’s lives. If someone saw any of the kids I work with at a grocery store they would have no idea what they have gone through in life. Poor assumptions are what can cause unjust wrongdoings. This is what we work towards every day to stop.
Community. Community is really important in GSV as we are placed randomly with people we have (usually) never met before in our life. In my case, that is what happened. I was placed with Kassy and we had never met before. Luckily we have gotten along really well and haven’t had many issues that we haven’t gotten through. Community is very important in living situations, as well as in the work place. At work I have had to gain community in many ways. The most important relationship I have built at work has been with the kids. When I think about what they have been through, or the childhood they have been deprived of, I always think about what I could do to connect with them to brighten their days. During recess, or any time really, I try to pay attention to what they love to do and I will make sure to make an effort to do those things with them. Since the reality of where I work is that it is a shelter, sometimes the children’s time here is limited. That is easy to forget when every day may seem the same, and it is a yearlong residency for the moms so you might see the same people every day for a while. However, they have so much else going on they might have to pack up and leave within a day. I believe it is my job as a staff member to give them a sense of community and safety that is educational, fun, reliable, loving, friendly, and supportive before that day comes.
Simplicity. Living simply isn’t just living within your economical means. Living simply has taught me to know the difference between needs and wants, and that does not always involve material things. School days at the shelter can sometimes be chaotic or full of anxiety from the children. Working in a field that uses trauma informed care could look different every day based on the needs of our kids. For example, we might have scheduled a math test for the day but maybe the child was recently triggered by something they saw and can no longer focus. As a teacher I need to think simply, I need to think what does this child need right now? Depending on the child they might need to read quietly, take a walk, draw, talk etc. I have learned to make things less complicated than they need to be, and missing a math test is not the end of the world. Letting these children heal, and feel safe without adding anymore unnecessary complications to their life is one of my goals here at the shelter.
Good Shepherd Volunteers taught us these four tenets at orientation in August and at first I had no idea how to react to them. I wasn’t sure how they were all going to fit into my life; I had never had to do anything related to them before. What I didn’t know is they were giving me a foundation to use in order to grow at my placement. All four of these tenets have guided me through my placement thus far, and will forever guide me through life.
Written by Allison Reynolds
Good Shepherd Shelter Los Angeles Community, 16-17