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When I returned back from Spring Break, Sacred Heart’s break had only just begun. This meant that last week was my first week back at work and it had been two weeks since I had been there. Factoring in snow days and missing art on Tuesday, that came to about 23 days without interacting with our second graders, enough time for the classic myriad of questions to resurface. “Are you married?” “Do you live with your parents?” “YOU have a TATTOO?!?” These questions are normal. One I hadn’t gotten before though was from the boy who asked me if since I helped in both art and gym, was I actually two twin sisters and that’s how I was able to be in so many places around the school? Well played, kid. Inaccurate, but I like his style.

Being one person is hard. There’s the person we know would be of value to the people around us and then there’s the person we actually are. The theory is that living in intentional community would mean receiving the freedom to wear both hats simultaneously while inviting those around you to do the same. What this means as a Mission Year Alum Leader of community is unclear.

How much of myself is reasonable to give, if who I am feels at times more like a hindrance on the community than a help? How do I care for people without letting them equally care for me? Does existing in a leadership position always mean hiding a little bit of heart, a little bit of your feelings in the name of better gaining the trust of your friends? Is this what being self-less means? How is that sacrifice consistent with my belief that we can find God in our truest selves and that in sharing that truest self we can reveal that God to others too? What does it mean to practice these tenants of vulnerability that I continue to encourage my team as being good and difficult and worth it? How can I shout the praises of vulnerability without forcing myself to do the same?

But by the same token, how do I claw my way off a leadership pedestal without become exhausted and done in the process?

This blog post doesn’t pretend to have answers. I can’t always be optimistic, but I can promise it’s real. I have to believe this in itself can be a gift to my community. This in itself can be enough.




Erin Riley is a current Mission Year Philadelphia Alumni Leader. Originally from Owosso, MI, you can learn more by visiting her donation page.