My first week of YAVing was spent at orientation (or disorientation) in Stony Point, New York with all the 2015-16 YAV’s. Let me tell you- the Stony Point Conference Center is AMAZING! They are an intentional multi-faith community living together, growing their own food, and working for social justice and peace. Don’t know what that means? That’s okay. Basically they are a community of about 30 Christians, Muslims, and Jewish people living together, worshiping together, and working around each others dietary restrictions. Absolutely awesome, in every way. While we were there we ate from the Stony Point garden and tackled some big issues that will play a role in this year.
Our first day was entirely discussing white privilege and how it has played a role in our lives (because it has played a role in everyone’s life, whether you are white or not, whether you realize it or not). This was a huge issue I have been struggling with as I look forward towards my year of service. How can I personally justify taking a year off work to be supported by the church to do service work? People keep telling me how selfless this is and how proud they are of me, but I can’t help but think about how crucial my privilege is to this year. There are so many people in the world that don’t have the option to forfeit an income for a year. I’m not saying that I believe what I am doing is wrong, it’s just hard for me to come to terms with. The best part of orientation for me was the day we talked about white privilege because it gave me the chance to come face to face with my biggest concern. In an amazing workshop led by a woman named Jessica who’s last name I cannot remember, I was finally given an answer to my question “What can I do about my white privilege?” (Warning: what I am about to say may not be comforting to others, but it helped me immensely!) After roughly 8 hours of discussion the answer came out. The only thing to do about your white privilege is to be aware of it, because there is nothing else you can do. I can’t stop being white any more than someone can stop being not-white, so my responsibility is to be aware and to stand up for anyone that doesn’t have the opportunity to stand up for themselves. I don’t know what else I was expecting to hear, but that was the most liberating thing to me. After tackling white privilege the rest of the week felt too easy.
Thursday I went to a mosque in Queens and heard about the worshiping experience from one of the members of the Stony Point community. While that could be a blog post of it’s own this one is getting long already, so I will only share my biggest take away. This one is for all you Presbyterians out there that love you own pew. Islam believes that prayer should be done “shoulder to shoulder”. They take this quite literally. So when you take your space to pray you walk through the rows taped on the floor and you take the space right next to the last person. There are no gaps between people. Imagine if everyone sat right near each other?
The rest of my orientation was spent discussing conflict resolution, blogging expectations, and making amazing friends. I’m sorry that I didn’t write a post for each day of orientation. It was such a great week with such wonderful people who I know are off doing fabulous things all across the world. I will definitely be giving some shout outs to their blogs and I would encourage you to check them out!
Please leave me any questions, comments, prayers, or love!