A few months back I contacted someone at the Seattle Union Gospel Mission. I wanted to tour their facility and provide them with pictures to use in publications, but more than that, I wanted to learn about homelessness. Walk the streets of Seattle, night or day, and you will find homelessness. It’s a problem, here and across the world. While being shown the facility, I was able to interact with quite a few residents, all of whom were some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They may be down on their luck, but they are trying and boy do they have an immense amount of life in them. Everybody was quite curious what I was doing there and kept telling me how much the mission has helped. Enjoy the pictures, but next time you walk down the street, say hi to a homeless person. Educate yourself on how you can help. http://www.ugm.org/site/PageServer?pagename=learn_featuredarticle
Wow, am I exhausted! Friday afternoon and all day Saturday I was on a leadership retreat for the Albers Undergraduate Leadership course I am taking over Winter and Spring Quarter. Most of Friday was spent addressing a book and assessment called Strengths Finder 2.0. I took the assessment and my top 5 strengths were analytical, harmony, discipline, deliberative, and learner. I believe these fit very well, especially deliberative. If you ever get the chance to take this assessment or pick up the book, I strongly recommend it. It is very rewarding to put words to what you are good at, which can be used in job interviews or just in building your confidence. As business students, there were definitely strengths that overlapped for us. There were many people in the achiever category, harmony, and woo. There were 14 of us part of this retreat and we had two challenges we needed to compete that night. The first was jump roping. All 14 of us had to jump and turn the rope. There could not be a swing of the jump rope without anybody inside. It took us maybe 45 minutes or so to complete. It was tough and we refined our ways of doing it each time, resulting in a better experience. It was interesting to see the different ways of interacting and completing a task, especially in a room full of business students. The dynamics are much different than say a room full of nursing majors. The second challenge was splitting us up into two groups. I was part of Department A and the other group was Department B. We were a part of the same company, which all of us failed to realize and capitalize on. We needed to race down to a group of circles, numbered from 0-31. We had to step on the numbers in consecutive order, but only one person could be in the circle at a time. My group assigned numbers, so for example, I was 0-3, hopped out and the next person took 4-7. The other group had an entirely different strategy. They cut the circle into pie slices and each person stuck their foot in the circle quickly. By the end, we were competing against each other and in our reflection of it, none of us realized we could have helped each other. We were trying to get the best time, but we were also competing against a “foreign bid”, which are professor just made up. We also thought with a few more trials we could reach the foreign bid, but we only were allowed five trials. We realized at the end we could have gone through the process as long as we wanted our first or second trial to get it down and then take the third, fourth, and fifth trial seriously. For example, we could start, go through the numbers and start over, do it again and again, until we felt comfortable. Lessons learned? Communicate across departments and don’t live in your own little world. Think outside the box and take your time. We finished the night with a skit promoting Seattle University. They gave each group of four a bag full of weird goodies and we needed to incorporate each item in our skit.
Saturday was a busy day, too. We went up to Bastyr University in North Seattle. We began with a trust exercise where one person would lean back and the other person would catch them. Then this turned into a three person, sort of like a pendulum. Then, we did it in a circle and lifted the person and carried them around. It was tough for me to lose control and allow other people to control my movements, which can be tough for any person, but can you imagine business students? Yikes! One of the scariest parts of the day came next. We split into two groups and one group put on blind folds. The other group went and tapped on a person’s shoulder and we had to silently lead them through a forest, over various obstacles. I led someone first and it was EXTREMELY challenging. We could not speak. We could only hold onto them, guide them, and show them the best we could where tree limbs, branches and where to stop. We had to get them to climb on a bench, walk down a fallen tree, walk through two trees making a v-shape, and we had to lift each one over a rope. For me, the most challenging part was how to tell the person to stop. All the guiders lifted each blind folded person one at a time over a rope, sort of like what we did earlier in the day in carrying them around. We reversed roles and then I was blind folded! I knew it was a man leading me as soon as he touched me – everything was a bit more forced and strong, but I felt secure since I knew he would not let me fall. Everything went pretty well, until we got to a muddy hill. We had to go down the hill, but apparently it was so muddy we could not walk down it. So they backed us up to it, put our first first and put us on our hands and knees. I assumed a push up position and slid down in a backwards push up position. It must have been a 30-40 ft hill that seemed to go on forever. Some people stopped part way through and tried walking up it, but the guiders put us back down into the mud. My laundry is full, again. This activity built trust so quickly among us. This was our second time meeting as a class and we felt much closer after this activity because you had to trust the person guiding you. We had lunch at the university – yuck. It was a vegan lunch, and if that is for you, great, but that was not for me. It was pretty flavorless and left me pretty hungry. After lunch we went to the “woozie walk”. Basically, it is two wires running from two close trees, and expand to farther trees. It made a sort of v-shape so you climbed on the wires with your partner, hands up in an A-frame and walked down the wire leaning in to support each other. it starts out close together, but then gets farther apart with each step, so you have to increasingly lean farther in and you and your partner balance your weight. It was funny because we had a couple in our group and they made it the furthest. They had great communication and trust throughout the process. The next activity was tough because energy was dwindling and the task itself was probably the hardest of the day. There were 5 trees in a U-shape, more or less. There was a wire running between each tree. We split into two groups and one group started on one side of the U and the other team started on the other. We had to walk on the wires and make it to the other side, passing the other team. If anybody fell, we started over. This took us an hour and a half to complete. We figured out that one person could hold onto the tree, one person could hold that person’s hand and reach across to bring another person across. Essentially, there were four people on each wire and we crossed around each other at the trees. It was incredibly frustrating because we had to keep starting over. The last challenge was a rope swing. We had to start behind a line and swing to a VERY small platform that could barely fit 14 people. This was tough because some people could not just swing on the rope to the other side, so we had to lift them onto the rope and swing them across. If somebody fell on the rope, they just had to go back. If somebody fell off the platform, we all started over. This was probably the quickest of the activities. We tackled this one relatively well. What would a day be without reflection? We closed our eyes in a circle, facing outwards. We thought about specifics of the day. Then, the leader tapped 3 of us on the shoulder at a time and read out a statement, such as, “Touch someone who has inspired you today”, “Touch someone who makes you laugh”, “Touch someone who challenged you”, “Touch someone who supported you today”, “Touch someone you want to learn more about”, “Touch someone who you value as a leader”, or “Touch someone who went above and beyond today”. We would then go tap on someone’s shoulder. After a few statements, we would rejoin the circle, close our eyes, and new people would be selected for the touching. It is nice to see how people see you. When you are tapped on the shoulder, it makes you feel good about yourself. We also had a reflection following this, covering the whole retreat and we focused on our frustrations and what we were impressed about. We were incredibly encouraging and positive throughout the whole experience. Everybody was included, ideas were tries and new ideas were accepted. We all had really great chemistry and fed off each other’s energy.
The biggest thing I learned from this retreat was that you will always have outside forces that you can’t control. They will throw you around and sometimes you just have to pick yourself up and go from there. It doesn’t matter how many plans you have because life has tree roots you can trip over, mud hills, and other obstacles. If life throws you down a mud hill, sometimes you just have to slide down it, get a little dirty and pick yourself up at the end of it, wipe yourself off and continue. It doesn’t matter what threw you down it. That has passed and you can’t climb up it, so what is your new direction? Sometimes somebody will be at the bottom to help you up and clean you off, but sometimes it is just you. Enjoy the times someone is there, but if they aren’t, keep walking because they will be there, eventually.
For the most part, we all have our paths in life. Some are shorter than others, some have more twists and turns than others, and some have portions of their paths that have not been surfaced, yet. While we sometimes get to choose our paths, other times we merely have to start walking where the path starts. Sometimes the path is well populated, while at times it is just you. We each get our unique paths, with unique experiences along the way. Sometimes we get to walk with a friend, experiencing something together. Sometimes we have to rely on ourselves. You can run. You can walk. You can skip. You can fly. You can travel the path however you desire. Sometimes we just need to sit down on our path. No two paths start at the same place and no two will ever end in the same destination. The greatness of each path is it does not matter where you start – it matters how you travel your path. Who do you wish to accompany you? How fast do you want to travel? What do you want to see? Who do you want to meet? What attitude and mentality do you want to possess? What do you want to accomplish? Think carefully, but not too carefully. Each decision alters your path and sometimes the decision can send you on a “detour”, but think of the “detour” more as an extension of your path – more enriching experiences. When you have some company on the path, enjoy it. Laugh, smile, and live with conviction because you never know when your path will turn.