Finding inspiration in our work

By: Amanda Benjamin, Environmental Justice Intern
June 30, 2011

Amanda Benjamin, fourth from the left in the back row

Amanda Benjamin, fourth from the left in the back row

Although its week three of my intern experience, we’re stilling doing icebreakers and “get to know me” activities. This is because between this week and last the last two members of our intern group, Roberto and Taaremon, arrived. So although things are beginning to feel routine and standard for me, everything is still pretty new for them. Anyway, at end of several of these “orientation” days, we were all asked to say one word that describes how you were feeling at that particular moment and why. Words like hopeful, excited, thankful, and even simply happy are some examples of how people were feeling at the end of those days. I like this activity because I thinks it’s a good way to reflective and “check in” with yourself and your emotions. As people of the 21st century, it’s easy to live life on autopilot: wake up, go to work, come home, go to sleep and wake up to do it all over again. Often times we can let the routine and busyness of life sweep us up and we forget to take time to just stop and think about who we are and what we are feeling. Activities like this help me become more aware of myself and they also allow me to put into perspective what it is I’m doing and what it is I care about.

So with this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to use this activity to reflective on my first 3 weeks. “Self, if you had to choose one word to describe how you were feeling right now, at the end of these first 3 weeks, what would it be?” Inspired.

Over these last 3 weeks, I’ve been touched by the people I’ve met throughout this experience. Almost everyone I’ve met, fellow interns, the CCAO staff, housemates, and even people I’ve seen on the street or at special events, has affected me. I’m inspired by the way they live their lives, with the passion, dedication, and honesty they live it with. Although important and also rewarding, the work we do at CCAO can be can be difficult at times. Reading about the struggles and suffering of others and the amount of disregard some of our world’s governments and people have for their pain on a daily basis can make teatime (the best part of the day) not so enjoyable. Achieving small victories that are few and far between while still knowing there is so much more that can be done can wear on the heart. However, I’ve been inspired by the dedication and concern of the people who are also working for social justice alongside me. One of the first out of office events I went to was a meeting with the Interfaith Working Group on Energy and the Environment. People from many different religious backgrounds, Jews, Catholics and Protestants, came together to discuss environmental issues and what we could do to help solve them. I was so taken aback by the seriousness, concern and sincerity in which they talked about the different issues. It wasn’t so much that they were serious and sincere about their concerns that touched me but it was the fact there wasn’t just one person in the room. There were about 10 people sharing the same feelings and concerns. No one person was alone in this struggle and I took a sense of encouragement and comfort from that. We didn’t come up with any revolutionary plan to cure cancer, fix climate change, and eradicate poverty while kissing small children while we do it. Despite that, it was their small, un-extraordinary expressions of sincerity, concern, and informed dedication that really stuck with me. Since that meeting, I’ve encountered even more informed and concerned people. Young people, older people, people of different races and ethnicities, priests, missionaries, activists, and volunteers. Their knowledge of issues that I don’t know about is inspiring. Their honesty about how hard it is sometimes is inspiring. The fact that they simply continue to live their lives with this honesty and committed concern despite the roadblocks is inspiring. And the fact that no one person is alone in this is perhaps the most inspiring part about it all.

This summer conversations about God in relation to the role we play as advocates for social justice have been frequent. Those that I discuss this with don’t know the answers to all the questions and neither do I, but that’s ok. They don’t know the answers but the fact that they are here with me being just as honest about not knowing and being just as, or many times even more, committed to working together to find a solution is amazing. It’s really quite inspiring.