By Michael Peterson, Career Education Outreach Coordinator, RESOURCE Inc.
I don’t know how I would have made it through the year without you.
Those words, or variations on them, came to define the last of our VISTA meetings, a bi-weekly event that had been a lifeline for many of us during this service year.
From the very beginning of the day, it took a concentrated team effort to make even the day itself run smoothly. We gathered in Minnehaha Park, an unfamiliar spot for most of us, which meant dealing with more than a few lost VISTAs (myself included). Fighting an unseasonable chill in the air, we came together to check in, share in a potluck lunch, and compete in a battle of guessing VISTAs by their baby pictures.
The competition was fierce, with the promise of prizes for those who could quickly identify their cohort-mates in all of the early childhood situations that make your friends laugh and you cringe. After many minutes of guessing, reasoning, and occasionally trying to glimpse another’s work, the competition ended in a four-way tie, forcing the finding of a few more gift cards.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an end-of-year gathering without some time for reflection and appreciation of each other. The last part of our gathering was spent circled up in the park, with everyone taking a turn in the middle, as the group then called out the things they appreciated about that person. It was emotional, awkward, and an amazing reminder of the unique gifts each of us possesses. It reinforced just how important this cohort has been to each and every one of us.
This year has not been an easy one. We have worked jobs that have pushed our limits on multiple fronts, while dealing with pay that has forced a lot of creativity. We have grappled with huge issues of inequity and the systems that create, sustain, and profit from it. We have faced personal trails, tragedy, and the fear that comes with facing a world that simply is unjust. For many of us, these challenges brought a moment or moments when we wondered how in the world we would get to July 31st still carrying the title of VISTA. But our cohort carried us through. I for one feel incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by this group of amazing people through this trying year, and our meeting on July 8th was a fantastic reminder of why.
We did it. And we did it together.