Almost six months ago, my teammates and I pledged (amongst other things) to “serve with an open heart and an open mind.” I ruminate on that that a lot. We were only a month into the service year when we made that commitment. We didn’t really know what we were getting into with our work, our students, or even each other. In the six months that ensued, I’ve realized that it’s a lot easier to declare your heart and mind as open when you haven’t had to open them up to anything- or anyone- yet.
I came into this service year feeling relatively confident about my ability to do my job. My interpretation of being “open-minded” was to be ready and willing to do everything that was asked of me and to get along with everyone around me. This isn’t an inherently wrong way to go about a City Year, but it was absolutely the wrong way for me to go about mine. At face value, things were great- I liked everyone around me, never had a bad day, never struggled. But honestly? I spent months of my life in stasis.
I’d pledged to open my heart without ever truly doing it.
Recently, I was flipping through the Idealist Handbook when I came across PITW #123, which correlates to the very line in the pledge I’d been grappling with. I instantly noticed that instead of the firm vow written in the pledge, the PITW asks us to “struggle” to maintain an open heart and an open mind.The reflections I’ve had on this between my epiphany at that moment and right now as I write this are messy and convoluted, but I am sure of this: it’s easy to like things, but it’s really difficult to love them.
I don’t feel particularly qualified to dissect or discuss any aspect of love, but I believe anyone could agree that it’s ubiquitously challenging. As upsetting as it is to admit this, I don’t think I truly loved any facet of my City Year until I started allowing myself to dislike it. Only when I became confrontational about issues I had on my team was I able to have honest, real conversations that resulted in close-knit bonds. Only when I stopped being concerned with whether my students and partner teacher liked me was I able to realize that they always had. Only when I lost faith in my ability to do my job did I care to take interest in how I could be doing it better.
Tessa with her student Branden, a 9th grader at the Edward H. White Military Academy of Leadership
These days, there are times where I don’t particularly like being around my teammates. There are times where I’m dissatisfied with my students and their progress (or lack thereof). They challenge me. I struggle with them. I love them, more whole-and-open-heartedly than I could’ve imagined six months ago. Things aren’t as easy as they once were, but in all honesty, City Year is not designed to be easy- most things that matter aren’t. If I had to take the pledge over again, it might be difficult for me to steadfastly commit to serving with an open heart and open mind- oftentimes I feel like I’m still learning how to do that. But I’ll make the commitment, today and every day, to struggle with it.
Tessa Delgo, AmeriCorps Member
The Edward H. White Military Academy of Leadership
City Year Jacksonville