Someone Like the Rest of Us

9 Apr

At Community Action Southwest, the partner organization where I am placed, I co-facilitate a class where clients investigate and examine their personal situation in poverty. The class involves learning how our society and economy work, analyzing one’s personal history, assessing community needs and supports, and developing a plan for building personal resources in order to create a more stable life. During last week’s class, clients were discussing their economic class stories. I was invited to open up and share my own economic class story, as well. I talked about growing up in rural generational poverty and living in more extreme poverty as a young adult. I talked about hunger, illness, depression, chaos, fear, and shame. I agreed to tell my personal story as a way of illustrating that living in poverty means living in instability.

After class, one of the clients pulled me aside, hugged me, and thanked me for sharing such a personal story with the class. She said, “I had no idea you had been through all that. I just saw you as my teacher, but now, I see you as a real person, someone like the rest of us here.” She expressed happiness at my opening up to the group and appreciation for trusting them enough to share my story.

This experience invigorated me because it validated my own experience with poverty as a totally legitimate reality. It also solidified a lesson I’ve learned through my participation in the Public Allies program: leadership is about building relationships, not just making connections. These deeply personal conversations serve to engage others and to encourage collaboration towards common goals. I’ve learned that being a leader means becoming less guarded and using your vulnerability to open the door to real conversations and strong relationships with the people you serve. It means softening your heart, breaking it open to others, and showing that you’re “someone like the rest of us.”

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One Response to “Someone Like the Rest of Us”

  1. pam April 11, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Hey Meghan,

    As you have encouraged others, be encouraged on your journey from Wash., PA to Wash., D.C. I’m elated to be serving alongside you, someone who is as powerful on the inside as you are humble on the out. It’s o.k. to be excited, even a lil’ nervous, but there’s no room for fear. You are fully capable, so own your moment, be safe and HAVE A GOOD TIME!

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