A Stubborn Strength
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end." Lamentations 3:22
I’m stubborn by nature, and for most of my life, that’s presented itself as a challenge. However, in my role here at the Bethlehem Center, it’s proven to be a vital strength.
Working with children for whom life has not been easy or fair, and working within a community that’s been affected by unfair housing policies, gun violence, gang presence and a drug epidemic requires hope that is stubborn, and that refuses to give in. The kids I’m privileged to serve in Alton Park are the best examples I have ever known of grit, tenacity and steadfast love and joy. Not only are they faithful friends to one another, but they are also daily and hourly blessings to me.
This week, I sat in Calvin Donaldson’s cafeteria surrounded by chattering 2nd graders who were eager to tell me about their victories in school. Our Read to Lead after-school students are, on average, 1.6 grade levels behind in reading and math. Listening to them brag on their own hard work, their well-deserved encouragement from their teachers and their progress made my heart soar with gratitude.
Last Friday, I spent the afternoon at East Lake Academy with several of their students. We talked about storytelling, and how the things we face as children and young adults shape us into who we will become. As they told me their stories it was clear to me that a stubborn commitment to goodness and a steadfast love of their friends, family and community was a huge part of what carried them through each day.
It’s true that my primary job is to love the children who come through our doors every day, and to provide them with a safe place to grow and succeed. But, as I’m learning on a daily basis, it’s also a huge part of my job to receive the gifts of this neighborhood. One of those gifts is a refusal to give in, even when facing odds that seem daunting, even impossible.
I count myself lucky to be an advocate for the children and families of Alton Park. I’m so grateful for the ways they are teaching me to turn my stubbornness into strength.
Gracie graduated from Covenant College with a degree in Community Development and now serves as the Read to Lead Program and Volunteer Coordinator at the Bethlehem Center. She can usually be found sipping her coffee with at least one of her "babies" (students) in her lap. Gracie is passionate about justice, an advocate of health in all it's forms, and firmly believes in the power of telling our stories to change the world.