06 Mar The Power of Relationships
I was recently at home sick in bed for three days straight with strep throat. Although I caught up on tons of work while quarantined in my bedroom, I missed out on lots of life in the process. As the weekend rolled around and I started to come back to the land of the living, I received the most beautiful gift. One by one, almost every one of the VTC Associates texted me to see if I was feeling better. They said they missed me, work wasn’t the same, and that it was boring without me! Even in the most broken English, they took the time to reach out to me – in my language – and make sure I was ok. Did you catch that? My employees did this.
It was then that I realized the beauty of what we’ve created at VTC: relationships. In taking the time to get to know each of them and learn about their families, we’ve been able to really learn what they need. Not just canned goods and toiletries (although those are a huge blessing to them). I’m talking about the next layer of need, a deeper layer. In our office, we hear the daily struggle of living in crime-ridden neighborhoods and navigating the American school system as a non-English speaking parent. Now that survival isn’t the only item on their daily to-do, we learn what they really want out of life and encourage them to go after it.
Then we peel away yet another layer. We learn what excites them and brings them joy. I see firsthand their excitement when they make an American friend. When they get to participate in life outside of their own cultural isolation for just a little while and feel like everyone else. I see how valued they feel when an American is brave enough to push cultural differences aside and step into their world to get to know them. Not to help them – to know them. That distinction – the distinction between knocking on the door and stepping into the living room, the difference between knowing about someone and really knowing them – is where lives change. We invest in people we know. We look out for them and stand up for them. All of the sudden, charity is turned on its head. The power of the “donor” melts away in the context of relationship as the “beneficiary” becomes a friend. They become equal, dignified and empowered in the relationship as the benefit begins to flow both ways.
That’s where I stood as these texts filled my screen. A friend receiving get well texts from other friends. Friends who take more time to care for others than almost anyone I know. I felt so loved. I set out on this endeavor to help give refugee women an upper hand. And of course it takes tons and tons of work, time, energy, emotion, money, sacrifice…and then some. But I’ve willingly given it, never really expecting to get anything in return. I’ve found that my expectations were way off. In running VTC, I haven’t just received satisfaction or a sense of accomplishment. I’ve made friends. Friends are one of life’s most precious treasures and the key to some of life’s biggest successes – and it’s what really keeps me going on the hard days of this journey. I’ve found that helping others is just barely scratching the surface of their need if that service is void of relationships. I’d challenge you to evaluate your current service activities. Do they expand your circle of relationships? If not, it might be time to re-evaluate your approach. Don’t know where to go in order to start? If you’re in Dallas, I know just the place. 😉