Summer Fellowship Reflections Part 1

It was in early February that it consciously hit me: I have a summer ahead of me with no obligations, no full-time job, no mortgage tying me to one location, and granted, no means by which to eat and pay the bills.  The opportunity of being a graduate student, and having flexibility and mobility in the summer was not lost on me, having been in the cycle of year-round employment for the past decade.  I began to search summer internships and fellowships and soon ran across the Beatitudes Society (thank you google). “Their mission grabbed me — “Strengthening the progressive Christian network for justice, compassion and peace” as did the snapshots of the fellowships they’ve administered.  I was intrigued by the breadth of organizations that were represented and found myself getting excited about a number of the positions.

Fast-forward through research and applications, interviews and paperwork, preparation and travel . . . here I am at Bread for the World in Washington DC, sitting in my cubicle where I can glimpse the capitol out the window if I strain my neck in the right direction.  I am surrounded by a floor full of people who are committing their time and energy to urge our nation’s decision makers to lead in a way that furthers the elimination of hunger, both in the United States and around the globe. Each person comes from a different path of faith, coming together around the call to follow God by speaking up for the poor and hungry.  My supervisor made the comment, “If you walked around this floor and asked everyone their theology on communion, consensus would not be found. But what we all have in common is the desire to put an end to people being hungry.”

It was this laser beam pointing back to the mission at hand that attracted me to the organization and has sustained and led me through this fellowship. I still have questions about how we navigate faith, policy and politics. I find, as with any human organization, that there are flaws and frustrations. I get overwhelmed at the breadth of work to do. But the laser keeps cutting through: “What can we do so that fewer people die from hunger in our world?”

As the fellowship comes to a close I pause and reflect back on what I’ve learned in the past eight weeks and how I’ve been changed. Because changed I certainly have been. It feels a bit like the first time I went to West Africa in 1999—I knew within days of being there that I would never be quite the same again after seeing the faces, smelling the air and having the rich red dirt seeping into my skin.

This summer I’ve been changed. Pieces that have been gathering over the years have found places to fit, I’ve found some edge pieces that give framework for the image, and the puzzle continues to evolve. To be continued . . .

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