On Food

Thoughts

Happy post-Thanksgiving! I’m a few days late, but it’s the perfect recipe for another blog post right now: it’s a time I should be sleeping (been up since 3AM…thanks jetlag!), it’s a time when I feel reflective (transitions to come), and it’s a time that I feel pretty emotional (a common side effect of visiting my family in China).

I left Dalian on Saturday evening. The previous night, after another three hours of mahjong – we’d played mahjong for hours every night for the entire week – I came out of the bathroom after having brushed my teeth to find my grandma rummaging through the freezer. It was midnight.

“Lao Lao, what on earth are you doing? I thought we said we were going to bed five minutes ago!”

Without turning her head, she explained, “Your Lao Ye said you wanted to eat ‘mian xian’ tomorrow for breakfast, so I’m looking for shrimp that he can put in it.”

Exasperated, my mom and I waited until Lao Lao found what she was looking for; we knew she wouldn’t stop until she did. Luckily, it didn’t take long – and sure enough, the next morning, the shrimp proudly topped the steaming bowl of needle noodles that my grandpa made for my last breakfast in Dalian. Despite his shaking hands and slow movements, Lao Ye insisted on cooking for me himself. He completed the noodle soup from his native Fuzhou with an egg and stuffed fishballs, the way it’s traditionally made: “My mom would make this for me every morning growing up,” he told me as I ate.

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My whole life, I’ve loved food. I’m not exaggerating: this trip, my grandma recounted the story, again, of sneaking noodles to me when I was just a few months old because baby me wouldn’t stop staring at the food until she did. In Philly, I started exploring different cuisines through restaurant week; in New York, I tackled a list of 100 cheap eats; in Shanghai and Hong Kong, I photographed each mouthwatering dish; in Chicago, I even became a Yelp Elite (not anymore, since I got lazy) and used the a la card to try new restaurants.

And throughout all of those years, every time I visited my family in China, it has been the same routine: every meal is deliberately planned around what I (and my sister, and my parents) like to eat. In fact, I almost feel like I’ve been conditioned to elevate the importance of food, feeding (pun intended) my innate affinity for eating. Because my whole life, that’s also been how I’ve been shown love by my family.

Love is…

    • When my paternal grandma, Nai Nai, sent an insane amount of milk tablets back with my dad when he visited because she remembered that we loved them;
    • When my dad’s younger brother, Xiao Shu, snuck us to street vendor lamb kabobs because he knew that we were obsessed with lamb kabobs;
    • When my cousin Shan Shan takes me to hot pot or barbecue every single time I see her, laughing at how I’m a true “Liu” because of how much I love meat;
    • When my mom’s younger brother Jiu Jiu takes us to the fish and produce market every day of our visit, buying too much of everything and cooking it to perfection – better than any restaurant;
    • When his wife, Jiu Ma, stocks the fridge with ‘suan nai’ – yogurt – knowing how quickly my sister and I will devour the pouches;
    • When Lao Ye ignores Jiu Jiu’s pleas not to go out (worried about Lao Ye’s age) because he insists on taking the bus to go buy ‘dou fu nao’ – savory tofu soup – at 7AM so it would be ready when we woke up;
    • When Lao Lao climbs back out of bed at midnight to make sure that the right ingredients were available for that traditional needle noodle soup that her oldest grandchild wanted for breakfast in the morning

It’s the incessant thoughtfulness of remembering exactly which foods we like, no matter how long it’s been since we last visited. It’s the unnecessary self-denial of saving the tastiest snacks in anticipation for our visits, even if it’s six months away. It’s the insistent commands for us to take the best, biggest, last bites of every dish. It’s the meticulous effort put into finding the freshest ingredients, even if it takes extra trips to the market. It’s the loving heart put into creating each dish – from the simplest of steamed eggs to sauerkraut dumplings that are wrapped one by one – no matter how busy, how tired, how old the chef may be.

I was so grateful to spend this Thanksgiving in China with my extended family, feasting on crabs and shrimp and oysters and fish – a port city, Dalian is known for its seafood – instead of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes. Jiu Jiu had taken us to the market again that afternoon, buying whatever we pointed at while expertly navigating stalls for the freshest hauls. And I saw it again: love, delivered through actions, manifested through the meal on the table that evening.

Like every other time I’ve visited China, there’s a hole in my heart from just missing my family already: I hate being so far away from them. But, like every other time, I’m also so full, filled to the brim with my favorite foods and love from my favorite people in the entire world. Until next time, Dalian!

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On Kenya

Thoughts

“So, how was Kenya?”

Even before I returned, I started to dread answering this question. How do you adequately encapsulate an experience that left you on an inexplicable high, in a way that is meaningful and non-cliche? In the past nearly week since I’ve been back in Chicago, my mind has run endlessly through the different memories from my twelve days in Kenya, bouncing from gratitude to longing to wonder to joy – blobs of feelings that refused to be synthesized.

I know I laughed a lot, laughed really hard and really frequently. Whether it was hanging out in the volunteer house (which felt like a reality TV show) or bouncing around for hours in the safari van (which requires a surprising amount of arm strength), there was always something to laugh about. It ranged from mistaken names (Ibrahim, Hostage) to miscounted lions (ugh); from love-hate bromances (“Kiss!”) to love-love rafikis (Wakanda Forever!); from mercilessly making fun of each other to seamlessly syncing in unexpected circumstances – laughing even when we had to get out of our van in the middle of the Maasai Mara to push it out of the mud. If laughter is medicine for the soul, my soul could probably stock the entire medicine section of the Carrefour that we shopped around together on our first day – the memory of this bizarre adult field trip still makes me want to laugh until “crocodile tears roll down my cheeks, forming the number eleven” (one of many entertaining phrases we read while grading essays at school).

I learned to become comfortable just rolling with things – we established quite early on that there were many details about the program that weren’t clear, from the address of the volunteer house (much to my mother’s chagrin) to our specific placements. But as they say, “Hakuna Matata” – an attitude that I grew quite fond of in my time there, a way of living that forces you to let go of planning and trust that all would be okay. When Ayub, our school director, took out a good chunk of his morning to unexpectedly take Dave to the hospital on our second day volunteering, I marveled at someone so busy being so flexible and generous with his time. Going with the flow kept things exciting: I didn’t know when an NVS staff member would show up to the house to say hi; I didn’t know what time I was technically supposed to be at school every day; I didn’t know what we were expected to teach in music class or even how many students would show up. But each unknown turned into an opportunity to build trust with those around me, having faith that we’d figure things out eventually, and together.

I also had to be honest with myself about my volunteer experience when I realized that I’d really only be teaching music for a total of 3 days (Monday was orientation and Thursday was Bible Study). This was my second foray into voluntourism, and I felt pressured to come out on the other end with a life-altering experience rooted in deep bonds with the community – in this case, with the kids and the teachers at school. As it turned out, I was only at KAG Olympic for a total of 3.5 days (I tagged along to the hospital for half a day). And while I adored the 3-year-old “babies,” their lunch leaders (Steven and Grantu), the 5th grade music class (Daisy, Gloria, and others), and the lovely Olympic staff (thank you for the chapati, chai, and conversations!), realistically, I felt that my short stay limited the depth to which I would bond with the people at school. I hated the fact that leaving on Friday was not as excruciating as other farewells I’ve bid, that there’s even room for doubt whether a piece of my heart was left in Kenya. I’m sad that I didn’t forge the same emotional bonds in Kibera as I have formed through other similar experiences, and this feeling is only compounded by the fleeting nature of the impact of a short-term volunteer.

I recognized discomfort several times – not so much from being in a new country, but from a heightened sense of awareness of my own reactions to what I saw. Walking through the Kibera slum left me with many mixed feelings – it was uncomfortable ‘touring’ the area because, as Ekaitz put it, “It doesn’t feel great to make a spectacle out of someone’s poverty.” And yet – what was the alternative? To ignore the slum’s existence? I felt baffled by the sheer randomness of birth, the luck of the draw that determined what kind of life you’d be born into. It was burning on my mind that we would leave the slum just as easily as we’d entered it, leaving a few bags of maize and some mzungu high-fives that masked the guilt I felt about the gap in our lifestyles. Actually, I wasn’t even technically a ‘mzungu’ – kids shouted, “Chinese! Chinese! Ni-hao!” as they pointed as me. Instinctively, I felt offended, and yet when I reasoned my way through the intent and understanding of a child in a Kenyan slum, it felt silly that I felt even remotely hurt.

I was repeatedly inspired by the stories I heard. People were so willing to share their life stories: stories about rising out of poverty, pursuing education again later in life, caring for sick loved ones at a young age. They shared about the school’s role as a safe haven for children facing traumatic experiences in the slum; school was a place where they had space to play and food to eat. I learned from my fellow volunteers’ experiences working with kids with special needs and teaching children from Spain to Mexico, echoing challenges in education that sounded oddly familiar, hinting at universal barriers that prevent our kids from receiving the best possible educational experiences. We shared with each other about career goals and transitions; about life and love; about loss and grief; about our journeys to pursue our best selves despite the obstacles that might have come our ways. If laughter is medicine for the soul, vulnerability is the sustenance that actually feeds mine, and I’m just as thankful for the walking commute chats, nighttime pillow talks, and under-the-stars conversations as I am for the belly laughs on this trip.

There’s so much more I could write about – the joy I found in making music every day with the students as well as with Dave and Oscar; the cheers from the babies when we showed up with plastic bins of ugali and kale; the majesty of the elephants and giraffes and lions and leopards and all the other animals we saw on safari; the serenity of gazing out at the savannah and feeling the wind blowing through my hair; the awe at watching the sun rise – twice! – and realizing that, despite all that has happened, yet another day had come, and the sun had risen again. Writing in depth about all this would take too much time and do it too little justice.

So, how was Kenya? It was living through all of the above, staying present and mindful in these memories as they were being created. It was exhausting but rejuvenating. It was one of the best trips I’ve had in the past few years. It was wonderful.

On Education, Part 2

Thoughts

Seven years ago, when the Penn Class of 2012 learned that Geoffrey Canada would be our graduation speaker, I had the same reaction as many of my classmates: “Who?” At that time, I had never heard of Waiting for Superman and was frankly pretty uneducated on social causes; instead, I was gearing up to start my first post-college job in financial services. Despite my initial disappointment at not having someone more ‘famous’ as a grad speaker (I know, first world problems), I remember feeling inspired that spring as I watched Canada stand on stage in his cap and gown, speaking passionately about his work with children in Harlem. There are certain fields of work that touch the soul, even for those who aren’t well-acquainted with them, and education is one of them.

Last week, I watched Geoffrey Canada walk on stage once again as he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at ASU GSV X. Admittedly, I still don’t know a ton about his undoubtedly impressive accomplishments – but this time around, I knew a lot more about the field of education than I did seven years ago. As he spoke of educators who believed in him as a student and students who trusted him a generation later, I paused and took a moment – just grateful to find myself in the education sector.

For me, the conference hadn’t started off on a particularly positively note: my first conference activity was a school tour to  a charter school in San Diego. The school itself was incredible: I met 2nd graders who had reflected on their own needs using Maslow’s Hierarchy; I listened to 6th graders explain their agendas for upcoming Student Led Conferences with their teachers and parents.

Unfortunately, the school was also facing the prospects of being shut down. “I have to be the bearer of bad news,” the principal shared with our group as soon as we sat down: the school was currently slated to close in June of this year. Despite this, we were there for a school tour, and so after an initial introduction about the school’s philosophy and curricula, we dispersed to explore the campus and visit with students.

What I didn’t expect – and, as we know, this is a common theme with adults – was that the students knew much more than I thought they did. I sat down to talk to a pair of 4th grade girls sitting by the playground. “Are you going to help us keep our school open?” she asked bluntly.

“I’m not sure,” I responded regretfully, “but it sounds like you like school here. What do you like about it?”

“This school helped me so much socially! I met my best friend here,” she giggled, and pointed to her friend. I sat with them for another ten minutes, listening to them chatter about everything from wanting the newest iPhone to guessing what new school they’d end up attending the next year.

As I continued to visit classrooms in the school, other students, spotting new adults in the classroom, kept asking us: “Can you help us keep our school open?” Later, a teacher shared about how several of her students had even watched the close decision being made in Sacramento on their televisions at home. “They came in crying the next day,” she said, shaking her head, “It was heartbreaking.”

There’s always so much happening at conferences, and ASU GSV this year was no exception. Yet between the coffees and receptions and sessions and keynotes, my mind kept wandering back to those students I met on Monday morning: “Can you help keep our school open?” Helpless as that question made me feel, I also knew that more than anything else at the conference, it reminded me of why working in education is such a beautiful endeavor.

As I looked around me at the handshakes sealing partnerships and hugs reaffirming relationships, I saw trust being formed between conference attendees. And outside the walls of the conference, there are students all over the world who in turn trust adults to help them experience to the best possible educational journey. Adults like their teachers, who work tirelessly day in and day out despite being underpaid and overworked. Adults like me, who trusted the system when I was a kid and was lucky that the system worked in my favor. Adults like Geoffrey Canada, who took that trust and took it as far as he could, and then some, whose students – now older than he thought possible – still stop to thank him on the street.

It is that trust that I take away from ASUGSV 2019. I feel deeply aware that it is an honor and a privilege to even be allowed in this field of work. Education, like any other field, is not perfect – and yet despite the mistakes that we adults make, these students continue to trust us. In roles like my current one, where we’re several steps removed from students in the classroom, it is imperative to be even more vigilant about the implications of our actions: I do not take this trust lightly, and want to make damn sure that whatever decisions I make do not breach it.  I’m not sure how long how long I’ll work in education, but I do know that in this moment, I’m very thankful for this precious, innocent, undeserved trust from our students to us imperfect, well-intended, still-learning adults.

On 2018

Thoughts

I had a lot of plans for 2018.

Like, a lot. As in I spent an entire day in early January mapping out exactly what I wanted this year to look like; I identified my goals, planned how I would achieve them. There’s literally a page in my journal where I answered the prompt “This year will be special for me because…” with the answer, “I will MAKE IT SO!”

Well, turns out 27-year-old me was naive and optimistic, because now, one year older and wiser, I know that sometimes you can’t just “make [it] so.” Of course, I certainly tried – I advocated for myself at work and read “productive” books; I tried Orange Theory and played in a beach volleyball league; I carefully allocated my fun time vs. my productive time; I took 3 work trips and 13 personal trips, 4 of them overseas; I prioritized my grandparents, family, friends, wanting to be there for the “big moments.” In June, I even did a mid-year reflection, recognizing the goals I had achieved and renewing my resolve to work towards the rest.

And yet when I look back at 2018, it feels like none of those things mattered. Instead, it feels like the year got hijacked by this giant wrecking ball with “NAH” painted on its side in big fat letters, knocking me off my feet again, and again, and again and again and again, from different directions, in varying magnitudes, with relentless consistency.

I’m not mad about it, though. I have learned that the heart – my heart – is remarkably resilient. My parents, worried with everything that had transpired, started ending phones calls by telling me, “Stay strong.” I found that I didn’t need to hear those words, because I didn’t need affirmation that I was strong, am strong, and will be strong, and simultaneously weak and vulnerable and brokenhearted during the times I needed to be.

Because there’s no denying that there were way too many times this year when I needed to be those not-strong things. There is no staying strong in the grief that comes from the sudden and permanent loss of a close childhood friend. There is no staying strong in the helpless “why”s that permeate daily conversations with those who also love her. There is no staying strong in the pain that comes from video calling a friend in the hospital while she waits to induce her stillborn son. There is no staying strong in the terror of waiting for an ambulance, hoping to shield the baby in my arms from my own pounding heart. There is no staying strong in the devastating resolve of a decision that breaks your heart, a heart that’s been bruised so black and blue that you didn’t think it could take yet another hit.

There was no staying strong in those moments, but that’s the beauty of it: you’re not supposed to stay strong in those moments. And taking the time to live those moments, to feel them for what they are – that’s something I’m learning to love as much as I love feeling strong. I’ve begun to understand that contradictory feelings don’t have to be mutually exclusive, that it is not a zero-sum game of emotions, that you can have both, or all. It is this duality – plurality? – that I think of when I reflect on 2018: it was a year of many, many things and all of them are true, all of them are real.

I spent my mornings earlier this week run-walking by the lake, watching the sun rise and reflecting on the events that transpired this year. I took time to feel everything all over again, remembering images seared into my mind and letting them literally knock the breath out of me, still just as unbelievable and freshly painful as if they were yesterday. I’d then go home and shower, walk to work with music blasting in my ears, mulling over lyrics that hit too close to home. And then I’d walk into the office and be genuinely happy to see my friends at work, appreciating that if it was imperative for me to face the challenges of this fall, that these were damn good people to be surrounded by every day. I would feel happy, I would laugh; I would look forward to meeting friends in the evening. It is not dissonant to be both in grief and in joy, it is not fake, it is not wrong. It is life.

My old boss is always pushing me to think less, feel more; to enjoy the process instead of figuring out all the answers. I tried really hard to plan for 2018, and instead I’ve been forced to step back and live the process, at times even enjoy it. I learned this year not just to lean in, but to lean on, heavily; I learned to have grit but also grief; I learned to appreciate that I am still learning, and that is okay.

A friend shared the below with me a few months ago, and it has resonated so much; I keep thinking these words to myself. Despite everything, I still grow. I am proud of this, I am proud of myself, I am proud of this year, 2018.

 

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On Friendships | Thanksgiving Edition

Thoughts

It’s somehow Thanksgiving time again, and I’m finally taking a moment to pause, breathe, reflect on the last three months. This fall has been one of the the most confusing, heartbreaking, difficult seasons that I have ever had in my life, and yet I’m coming out of it still somehow in one piece.

I say “somehow,” but really, I know how: in the last three months, I have been reminded again and again of the incredible support system around me. And so today, on this day of thanks, when the world feels a little less whole and a little less right and yet the sun is still beaming outside – I have to take a moment and just be in awe at the different friendships that I’m lucky to call mine.

– Friendships of growth, ones that challenge me in so many different ways to think differently, to be better. They’re friends who care enough about me to speak the truth, even if that’s not what I want; friends who remind me not to be so hard on myself, that it’s okay to take a moment to feel the feels; friends who are passionate about causes and ideas I’d never even considered. Through these friends, I’ve realized that you can be a “lifelong learner” without even picking up a book.

– Friendships of hospitality, my friends who have opened their homes to me, without hesitation, offering me refuge even before I would admit I needed it. I’m thankful for the food, of course – homecooked meals of Chinese food and pancakes and cookies – but more thankful for the safe comfort of warm spaces to have conversations on anything and everything.

– Friendships of distance, and at the shared times that grounded these friendships so deeply that they could survive the distance. Not even just “survive” – they’re friendships that continue to thrive despite the distance, whether it’s across the country or across the globe. I’m thankful for these friends who can so easily put a smile on my face through just a text or a call, reminding me that maybe the world isn’t quite as big as I thought after all, reminding me that I am never alone.

– Friendships of circumstance, a circumstance we never wanted. And yet here we are, so easily settling into this pattern of texting each other when we’d really only tangentially known each other in years past. It has been so easy to love each other because of how much we love her, and it is in turn so easy to see why she loved every one of you.

– Friendships of forever – I’m talking about you, Meg. And you, Nirmam. I am learning day by day that I have not lost you, I will not ever lose you, because your words, your actions, your friendship lives on in so many things I do or aspire to do. And while of course I wish more than anything that I could actually talk to you, I’m taking a step back today to just be so damn thankful of the laughs we shared, the words you spoke, the unforgettable way in which you’ve touched my heart.

I could go on with more friendships I’m thankful for – new ones, rekindled ones, everyday ones, not to mention family (does family count as friends?) – but for once in my life I’m not too concerned with accidentally leaving out a person or a category. I think that’s what gratitude helps you do: you focus on what you have, and how amazing that makes you feel, and just soak in that moment without worry for anything else.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – my heart is feeling more full right now than it has in a really long time, and my stomach is hoping to follow suit very soon. I’m so thankful for all of you!

On Different

Thoughts

Earlier this week, I was in Chinatown as I often am, meandering through the square as I debated which noodle shop would fulfill my craving. When I lived in Hong Kong, I had practiced the “art” of eating alone; I would force myself to go dine solo to get over the fear of a) what other people might think (spoiler: nobody cares) and b) of being alone (spoiler: it’s actually kind of fun).

It had been a while since I’d eaten out alone, so I was actually really looking forward to tucking in and allowing my mouth fully concentrate on eating, with zero interruptions for talking. Unfortunately, I was stopped by an obnoxious instrusion right before I got to the restaurant.

“NI-HAO,” a non-Asian man said tauntingly, with a weird, mocking wave.

My natural instinct to grin to a fellow human turned quickly into a tight-lipped smile; I broke eye contact and hurried ahead to my destination. I was no longer excited to eat, but rather already felt a bad taste in my mouth – all it took was a five-second interaction. The moment I sat down at the restaurant, I texted a friend: “Some asshole just waved to me and said nihao.”

As she expressed her horror at my little story, I began to try and process how I felt. I wished I’d stopped him and asked why he thought it was okay to do what he did. I wished I fully understood why it hurt; was it because he thought I didn’t speak English? Because it felt like he mocked my race, my culture? Judged me based on how I looked? Made me feel different, like I didn’t belong?

I even wondered if I was being sensitive. “He’s just ignorant,” I thought, “It’s just some idiot who seriously lacks exposure to diversity. It doesn’t matter.” But that didn’t feel right; I remembered a recent conversation with friends, where they were discussing a clear increase in the number of insensitive racial interactions they’d had since the election. One mentioned a visceral reaction to retort, start an altercation; this spoke volumes to me: these interactions, no matter how small they may seem…they hurt.

They hurt because they make you feel like you somehow don’t belong, as if being different is somehow bad. Like many immigrant children, I still remember how my classmates thought my lunches were “weird”; the comments ranged from harmless (“What’s that?”) to rude (“Ew, that looks gross!”) but consistently made me feel one way: different. Sadly, the tone of these little interactions taught me that “different” was actually “bad.” To this day, when I’m heating up a lunch that might elicit too many questions, I hide away in another room to eat it – even though my coworkers are awesome, a traumatized part of me still fears having to deal with feeling “different.”

Despite what we teach our kids, that different isn’t bad, the truth of the matter is that it’s not that easy. Sometimes, it’s as clear as day: an ignorant passerby who makes you feel deindividualized. But other times, it’s much more subtle, and you question whether you’re just imagining it: a subtle change of tone. A flash of incredulity. A glimpse of judgment. We say that different is good, that every person is free to be unique – but I’m not quite sure that we truly live that. I know that I frequently fail to be aware of my subconscious judgments, recognizing that I may feel like a victim but am also likely a perpetrator.

This isn’t the first “Ni-hao” I’ve received, nor will it be the last. And while I want better for the future, I’ve accepted that fact for now. In fact, I’m learning to appreciate that experiences like this remind me to pause, to think, to remember how it makes me feel. My ideal world is not one in which no one feels different, but one in which every one feels fully embraced for their differences. And one of the ways we can continue learning to do that is to slowly but surely increase our empathy; to remember what it feels like to be “different”; to recognize the negative emotions triggered; to know that we can do better for others around us.

As for ourselves? Now that I’m done practicing eating out alone, I’m going to start practicing feeling “different.” I want to be true to myself, unafraid to raise eyebrows, ready to flaunt that which makes me unique, so that I know I’m being honest the next time I tell someone that it’s really, truly, absolutely okay to be different.

Project: VISION

Chicago, Thoughts

Last week, I went to an open house hosted by Project: VISION, a local Chicago nonprofit that I began supporting this fall. PV provides after school programming to youth aged 12-18 in the Chinatown and Bridgeport neighborhoods; most of the students attend Chicago Public Schools and many are from first-generation immigrant families.

At the open house, I got to ask some of the students what they’d been up to over at the center. Some were receiving mentoring from Chicago professionals; others were being helped through college applications and FAFSA. A group of students told me about a recent exercise they’d completed that pushed them to think about their 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year plans.

“So what did you say was your 10-year plan?” I asked, curious to understand the mind of today’s 17-year-old.

“A stable job,” said one. “A doctor, lawyer, or a teacher,” replied another. “I want to be a father,” answered a third, as his friends laughed and elbowed him in the ribs. I noticed an easy camaraderie among them, three seniors in high school who were semi-anxiously awaiting the start of college admissions decisions. These didn’t seem like kids who just came to a center once a week to receive homework help; they seemed like friends, true friends.

“You guys said you go to different high schools, right? Would you say you’re better friends with your school friends or each other?” I wondered.

They smiled – somewhat bashfully – and all pointed at each other.

In that moment, I understood the power of a place like Project: VISION. It is a place full of resources to help middle and high school students navigate the next stage of life; it provides opportunities to learn, lead and serve – and yet it is so much more. Between the logistics of life that have to be completed, there is a space at PV – literally, and figuratively – that allows for relationships, for community, for belonging.

Some teenagers are able to find these friendships at school; others at places like Project: VISION. And still others are unable to find it at all. It could be due to a shyness that creates anxiety in social settings. It could be due to the lack of alternative opportunities like PV. It could be due to priorities like babysitting the family, priorities that take precedence because of the necessity to survive. It could be due to any number of different factors – but every young adult who wants the safety of community, who needs the comfort of belonging – they deserve a chance to have it.

I’m incredibly proud to support Project: VISION and all the work its staff does to provide students with the help and the skills they need to succeed. That the students I met at open house could point to each other as close friends is a beautiful testament to PV’s power in creating an alternative space for community. As these students begin their journeys to a stable job, a doctor / lawyer / teacher, and to becoming a father, I can’t help but smile knowing that they’ll have each other’s friendship through it all.

If you’d like to support the work at Project: VISION, click here to donate or message me to learn more!