Big Perspective for Small People

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NOTE: Because my blog is public, I purposely removed any references to the people I work with or to the organization for which I work. This has resulted in some awkward and vague phrasing.  However, most of you know these details and so it shouldn’t be too difficult to fill in the gaps.

As an intern, it is really easy to get lost in the menial tasks and forget about the greater perspective of the organization for which you work.  It’s challenging to see the top when you find yourself on the bottom rungs of the ladder.  My organization is at the forefront of American international relations.  However, this task is split into bureaus and offices, and I often feel lost in the hierarchy as one of thousands of employees.

A few days ago, my supervisor asked me to help with the economic security conference hosted by my organization.  As an escort, my job was to point diplomats and businessmen towards the conference room.  “Good morning. Turn the corner and go through those doors,” I repeated endlessly for an hour and a half.  With each repetition, my eyelids grew heavier and I had to resist the temptation to frequently look at my watch.  However, I had to remind myself that this task was still important.  Besides providing a necessary security check, I was also acting as a face of the United States.  With an improved attitude, my smile widened and I made an effort to really look each person in the eye as I greeted her, asked how she was doing, and pointed her in the right direction.

After the last guest passed by, I headed back upstairs to check in with the conference coordinator.  “Would you like to go down to the conference room and hear the speech [by our boss]?” she asked me.  Elatedly, I headed down the hall, excited to finally meet my boss.  Seeing and hearing my boss for the first time really reinforced the greater perspective for which I had been yearning.  I’m an intern and I do small things, but I’m doing them for a bigger purpose.

Spiritually, I often find myself in the same conundrum and in need of the same perspective change.  I get lost in the details of my own life, feeling small but forgetting that God is big.  This last week, I read Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership and was convicted by his chapter on contemplative prayer.  God knows that we need perspective in order live with joy and hope, and so He calls us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Pray when you are suffering; pray when you are euphoric. Pray when you are disoriented; pray when you are confident.

Nevertheless, our self-centered nature makes fervent, continual prayer a difficult discipline.  I’ve been learning a hard lesson:  In order to teach us how to pray continually, God puts us in situations in which we have to pray continually.  In order to discover where God is calling me, I need to pray, pray, pray.  I should pray at my internship and for my internship, living with a prayerful attitude.  I may be small, but I serve a big God who uses my small tasks for bigger purposes.

Filling in the Facts with Photos

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A view from the Mt. Vernon Bike Trail along the Potomac River

I rode 18 miles along the trail… this was an accomplishment for me!

Touring the diplomatic reception rooms at the State Department with my parents

My family and I went to Boston for the weekend

Enjoying the Boston Public Gardens

My sister and I did a photo shoot… she’s mastered the art of looking snarky and beautiful!

For fall break, I got the opportunity to go to New York City for the weekend.

The Brooklyn Bridge on a chilly but gorgeous day

I feel obligated to include a photo of the State of Liberty! (from the Staten Island Ferry)

Central Park from the Belvedere Castle

The Metropolitan Museum of Art gives the Louvre some serious competition!

Not Blogging is a Good Thing, Right?

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First of all, let me apologize for neglecting my blog.  I’m trying to convince myself that my lack of blogging is a good thing; it’s evidence that I have been enjoying Washington, D.C. to its fullest… right?  Well, I have plenty of updates for you all but an appalling lack of energy with which to do so. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not receiving a grade for this blog. Talk about a GPA killer! 🙂

If you will give me a chance to gather my thoughts, I will leave you with one of my posts from our program blog:

Paradoxically, routine can both propel you forward to productivity but also hold you back in monotony.  Just as a routine can provide a helpful framework, it also keeps you trapped within its bounds. We are now entering week six of twelve of our internships, and the routines are becoming firmly established.

My alarm goes off at an ungodly hour each morning, and I force my eyelids open, savoring one extra minute under my warm covers.  I quickly get dressed into the professional clothes that I laid out the night before, and put some water on the stove for my Trader Joes apple and cinnamon oatmeal.  As the water boils, I brush my teeth, make myself look presentable, and check my bag to make sure I have everything I need for the day. I then quickly scarf down my oatmeal before heading out the door.

The walk to the metro stop ranges from ten to fifteen minutes, depending on how many times I have to stop at the cross walks.  Once I reach the metro stop, I am greeted with a smile and handed a copy of Express by the same older gentleman, “Have a safe trip, young lady.” I sprint down the escalator in hopes of avoiding the dreaded three minute wait for the next metro train. For some reason, it’s quite satisfying to rush to the tracks and immediately jump into the metro car, knowing not a minute has been wasted.  I find strange comfort in boarding the same train with the chatty conductor. “Blue line, blue line to Franconia-Springfield,” he reports, repeating the phrase at least a dozen times each trip.

Chime. “Doors opening. Step back so customers may exit. When boarding move to the center of the car.” Chime. “Step back. Doors closing.” Chime. “Step back to allow the doors to close.”

Despite seeing different faces each time I ride the metro, people never fail to take on the same roles. I observe the man adjusting his tie by using his reflection in the window. I remain standing because of the woman who puts her overstuffed bag on the seat next to her in an attempt to keep her personal space. In the corner, the sharply dressed business man purses his lips as he reads the Financial Times.

When I get to my stop, I know that the escalator will not be working and that everyone will push and shove to make their way to the top. After a brisk ten minute walk to my building, I also know that no matter how quickly I go through security, I will always have to wait several minutes for the elevator.  However, the building that used to be a dreadfully confusing maze is now refreshingly recognizable.  I walk confidently to my office, taking in the familiar rhythm of my rather uncomfortable high heeled shoes.  Sitting down at my desk, I take off my coat and check my e-mail before reporting to my supervisor. For the rest of the day, I sit quietly at my desk, eyes glazed to the computer screen as I complete various research tasks. At 5:00pm, I organize my desk and pack up to go home, tracing my way back on the metro and hoping to get the “Blue line, blue line” conductor.

Does this sound familiar? While I’ve mastered the routine, I can’t help but long for something more. My mentor had me read a chapter about the “mystery of risk” and its place in vocation. There’s nothing risky about my routine – I do the same thing every day and take comfort in its sameness. However, I’m learning that God does his best work in uncomfortable situations. How might I challenge myself in my internship? How might I push beyond the routine? Perhaps it’s something as small as striking up a conversation with someone on the metro or asking the secretary about her plans for evening.  Whatever it is, my prayer is that my eyes will not be lulled to sleep by the uniformity of my routine.  Instead, let my eyes be wide open and alert, ready to discover what God has in store for me through this internship.

I owe you all a true update soon. Thanks for your patience. 🙂