As we have gone through these last 10 months, we have all had highs and lows. This year has been life-giving, but also challenging. We have learned about ourselves and each other. We have become rooted in both our Service Adventure community and the larger community in which we live. This year has allowed us to learn more about what Service Adventure is, create deep, meaningful relationships, and experience our individual and group transitions together.
When Rudy and I began as unit leaders here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last fall, we really had no idea what to expect for what our year would look like. What we have come to realize throughout this year is that, as in life, you cannot have expectations. Each day, week and month is going to be different from the last, and flexibility is the key to getting through.
The basic structure of our weeks is the same: The participants go to their work placements, Rudy and I work one or two days at the hospital, Monday we have learning components, Wednesday is worship night, and Thursday is Taco Thursday at church. However, the end results are always different. We go on trips, people get sick, difficult things happen at work, and when the dust settles, the only constant has been this group of participants and leaders, moving through it all together. Being a Service Adventure leader requires you to take many different roles and complete many different tasks. Just like in life, you cannot forecast what exactly you will be doing on a day-to-day basis.
Rudy and I have greatly enjoyed spending our year with these four wonderful individuals. This year has flown by, but at the same time, I look back to August and Florian's hair was only as long as mine when the unit began!
We have appreciated the time to create relationships with the participants both individually and as a group. Once a month, one or both of us meet with each participant individually. We go on a walk, a bike ride, get coffee, or just chat in the casita. These one-to-one sessions have been some of the most sacred times for us this year. The intentional, dedicated time spent to learn more about each other is a gift in our busy world. It gives us a moment to decompress and connect on more than a superficial level. Coming into this program, this was probably one of the most intimidating parts for me specifically.
However, for the most part, we leave each one-to-one feeling more connected and aware of what is happening in each other's lives. We will be the first to say we don't always know what we are doing or how best to handle situations. Yet, we are learning how to be better at this from each person in the unit. Sometimes it may take patience and forgiveness from each other, but that is all part of life and living in community with five other people. One-to-ones have been very valuable in learning how we can help our community thrive. It has been a time to listen and reflect with one another.
We have had the opportunity to travel a lot this year, which has been some of the best time for us to cultivate relationships as a whole group. Though there is a lot of time spent in the car individually watching movies and sleeping, by the end of the trip, we often move to a time of being together and just enjoying each other's company as we suffer through the last few miles of what seem like never-ending car trips.
Also, the intentional group time each week at meals, learning components, and worship nights allow us to slow down and be together. At the beginning of the year, our group collectively decided to have house meals every night of the week. This was not a requirement, but a request to have a time of connection every night to debrief our wonderful, terrible and average days. These intentional experiences allow the group to dig deeper into what it means to live in community.
This year has been a transition for all of us. We have all come to a foreign place separately to live together. Each of us have moved away from our families and are experiencing this new place with one another. Transition brings exciting change and new experiences, but it also brings difficulties and stress. This year, our first year of Service Adventure leadership, brings a uniqueness we will not have with future units. Everything we do is a first for the whole group. This complete newness has brought its own challenges, but it has also brought us closer to one another. As a group we have transitioned from strangers, to a unit, and finally to a supportive community for each other. As this year comes to a close, we have each begun preparing for our own separate journeys. For Rudy and me, we are preparing for our second year as leaders. We have been interviewing participants for next year and exploring possible placements. For the participants, they are beginning to take the next steps in their own paths. Even though we will be parting ways, we will always be a part of each other's lives; we have created connections and relationships that we hope will be lifelong.
We have learned that having expectations for Service Adventure is inadequate, and that our role, more than anything, is to be flexible and supportive through all the transitions that we face. This year and this group have been a blessing for us, and we look forward to seeing how different it will be to experience another year of Service Adventure with a new group of people. We are sad to see the end of this year, but excited to see everyone take the next step in their own journeys.