Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fordham University Global Outreach: 10% of All Jokes are True

From January 10-16 we had a group from Fordham University's Global Outreach (GO!) program come down to the Farm. It was a little weird being back after almost a month away, but this group proved to be really well suited to reintroducing us to the Farm. They had a lot of energy for both fun and service and it really made for a great week.

The most defining characteristic of the group was the extremely strong community they had. This isn't necessarily unique when it comes to groups on the Farm. I am very often surprised at how close the groups grow during their time here. What was unique about this particular community was the fact that it was already strong before they arrived. This is due in large part to the nature of the GO! program at Fordham. They have been meeting at least once a week since October. In addition to their weekly group meetings, they have been staging fundraising bake sales and had to meet with another person from the group one-on-one at least once every week. Thus, by the time they came to the Farm they had already formed a strong bond with every one of their group members. A second factor played into how close the team was before the week. Joe and Christine, the two leaders of the group, went through a pretty extensive interview process to select the team members. It was very apparent during the week that they had really made a concerted effort to select people that were all different personalities and brought something different to the group. The drawn out process may seem like overkill to some people but it makes sense when you dissect the logic behind it. First, gauging the personalities of the would be team members is crucial to running a successful team. Second, the amount of time devoted by the team leading up to the week was a refleciton of the attitude that GO! takes when approaching things like this. I heard from many of the students that GO! insisted on using the label "project" when refrerring to the week, eschewing titles like "trip". Project implies a long term, lasting experience while trip connotes something that begins and ends with the week. To really promote that idea of permanence it's really actually necessary to have that applicaiton process and all those meetings beforehand. I thought it was a really unique way to look at coming down to the Farm and one that benefitted them as they spent their week here.

One of the advantages of having an already strong community was that they were really able to open up during reflection. They really explored a lot of different ideas and personal insights that would have been difficult to share had they not known each other so well. The knowledge that everyone in the room genuinely cared about each other and was there to support one another allowed each person to really put themselves out there. Thus the reflections were always really insightful and sincere. By all means I'm not saying that reflections by other groups are fake or cursory. However, it's hard for goups to really open up and get over that initial hesitancy if they're still trying to get used to each other. This group didn't have to go through that period of reticence. In fact, it took me a little by surprise at first. However, their willingness to be open was refreshing and helped me to in turn reflect openly about the week. It was evident in everything they did during the week that they really had a strong bond and support structure. They participated in the service at Mosby more than any other group we've had and even had the courage to ask to be prayed over. All this is possible because they knew they could count on their team members for support.

The group worked really hard while they were here. We spent one of the days at the Food Pantry packing the boxes for handout. We used a slightly different strategy for packing boxes this time around. Normally, when I've packed boxes before, we just set up 30 empty boxes on tables and assign each person a few items that they then place into each box. It's a process that is kind of cool to see because of the progression. Normally in the beginning, there's a lot of chaos as people are running into each other and dropping stuff and we have to repackage stuff because the boxes are unwieldy. But as it goes on people figure it out and it becomes a more organized chaos.

This time around though, George had set up a conveyor belt so instead we just slid each box down and put the items in one at a time. It was good for me because it pushed me out of my own comfort zone. I found myself getting frustrated as boxes began to pile up and my back began to hurt from lifting all of them. Old George also came by, as he usually does, to help out. Because it was a commodities week, the boxes were pretty heavy so there really wasn't much Old George could do in terms of helping. I could feel my impatience growing as he struggled to lift boxes and (as I saw it) slowed down the line. As this happened, though, I really derived some strength from the rest of the team. Jim, who was working right alongside of me, never once complained and did the work with such purpose that it was truly inspiring. At the other end I saw Christine working with such a smile on her face. She kept talking to Old George in a way that I could tell she was truly interested in what he had to say and wasn't just humoring him. Naturally, at reflection that night we talked about instances we had to use patience. It was thrown out that patience is often necessary in order to live in community. While that is certainly true, as I reflected I realized that community is where I derive my patience. It's especially true here at the Farm. Schedules are constantly changing and plans are always being modified. This would be difficult if it wasn't for the community that Colleen, Jamie and myself have here. We all lean on each other and when something changes we all just shrug and say "Welcome to the Farm". It's easy to endure when you have a support system behind you.

The group was also really full of energy for the whole week. There were more than a few spirited rounds of ninja played on the Farm that week. They also played a marathon session of Scattegories that had plenty of energy behind it... as well as a Collosseum-esque thumbs up/ thumbs down approval system.

Commodus is apparently a tough Scattegories judge

Normally we have to do some cajolling to get groups to dance at the Thurmans' but this group needed no such urging. This was in addition to all the signing and dancing that took place in the cars as it was. They had the chance to play some Charades at Comprehend, which both the clients and kids got a kick out of doing. Though somehow a "space race" and "mother" were the clues that were supposed to lead us to Terminator? The students also broke out the Puzz 3D during the week. There was also a lot of fun had assigning everyone roles from various TV shows and movies. All in all their sense of fun was contagious and made for a great week full of plenty of laughs.

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