The other day, I was eating lunch out in downtown Manchester with some of my colleagues. After devouring some delicious crepes, we started heading back to the office. We had walked down the block and turned a corner, when I heard someone call, “Wait, wait.” We turned back to find the one girl working the crepe shop running after us with my purple purse in tow. As she approached us, three teenage boys were passing by. One of them turned to the others and said, “City Year’s always helping people. People always helping City Year.” After thanking the girl profusely for leaving her shop unattended to deliver my forgotten bag, this whole scenario got me thinking.
I love my job.
I don’t take enough time to reflect back and appreciate all that it has given me, but it’s situations like this that bring me back and allow me to remember why I am here and what I am doing.
Aside from this one episode, the day that always reaffirms my decision to stay with this organization, more than anything else, is the Friday before our Winter Holiday Break. Traditionally, City Year New Hampshire takes this day to reflect, appreciate, and enjoy one another’s company. We do this in a variety of ways, but my favorite is what we call the Silent Appreciation Activity. The activity begins with the whole site sitting next to one another in a large circle. Participants are asked (as long as they feel comfortable) to close their eyes and reflect back on where they were a year ago, and then reflect on all the activities that led up to this day, all the people they’ve met along the way, and how they came to be sitting in this circle. Participants are then asked to turn around with their backs facing the inside of the circle. Ten people are chosen to enter the center of the circle. With a light tune playing in the background, a facilitator will read off a series of statements, one at a time. The people in the middle of the circle will tap or touch the shoulder of those on the outside of the circle who they believe the statement applies to. “I love working with you.” *tap* *tap* *tap* “I don’t tell you enough how much I appreciate you.” *tap* *tap* *tap* “You challenge me, but I am better for it.” *tap* *tap*…
After a round of statements, another group is chosen to enter the center of the circle and they are given a new set of statements to praise and appreciate their co-workers. It is incredible how a simple tap on the shoulder or a warm touch can leave the entire City Year New Hampshire site feeling united and appreciated before they leave for the winter break, ready to relax and rejuvenate, before we reconvene in January. I know it always leaves me with a warm feeling inside (regardless of the NH weather) and makes it difficult to leave my City Year “family” as I head off to my own family to celebrate the holidays.
Although it’s been nearly three and a half years since I joined City Year, I always love the opportunity to reflect back on how it all started and why I am still here, whether through an interaction with strangers on the street or among the comfort and connection of my City Year family. I hope 2012 will bring all the best to each and every one of them. They deserve it.