I can’t say I was born and raised here, but I’m passing through West Philadelphia. Instead of playgrounds, basketball and guys up to no good, I’m riding a train, eating a sandwich (that the amazing people at Stony Point made for all of us by the way) and listening to Frank Ocean.

It blows my mind that it’s only been a week since I boarded a small, Delta Connections flight and said goodbye to my hometown. When I left, my only plans were to learn about the world of nonprofits so I could determine whether or not my aspirations of working in, or running, a nonprofit were genuine or some sort of millennial idealism. In retrospect it seems that it was actually a mixture of the two. I think I was arrogant enough to assume that my passion would actually be something original and helpful to communities I’ve never even set foot in. That may sound pessimistic but it’s become a strangely reassuring thought as the week concluded.

Richard Williams, the director of the YAV program, told us a story on the very first day we spent together that I thought I understood when I first heard it. He told us of his own first day as a YAV, a bishop he was going to be working with sat him down and told him: “We don’t need you here. We want you here and you’re welcome here, but we don’t need you.” I listened to Richard tell us and I remember nodding and thinking “Well yeah, of course they don’t. Why would anyone think they were that important?” This story was a recurring theme throughout the week, so they could make sure we kept thinking about it. Their plan worked because this was nearly all I could think about by Friday and Saturday evening.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I was definitely one of the people who thought I was important enough to be needed. The more I thought about this idea, the more I saw the purpose in what seems like an extremely pessimistic way to view the coming year. But I think it is just me being honest for the first time. I applied to this program because I wanted to make a difference; a desire I don’t think anyone would criticize… if I didn’t come into it with the expectation of accomplishing that goal.

Once I became willing to admit my intentions, the idea of not being needed became much less depressing and much more compelling. I’d love to give this idea most closure but there simply isn’t any. I’ve spent a significant portion of our three-hour train ride trying to figure out a way to sum this idea up in a clean way to explain my goals for the year, which I’m now realizing is extremely ironic because this idea of not being needed but being welcomed isn’t a simple idea that has any closure whatsoever. The goal of Richard’s story was to make us question our motives and check our expectations for ourselves at the door, and realizing that it accomplished that is as much closure as I can give.

If you’re like me, then certain songs tend to express current mental/emotional states far better than any grammatically questionable blog post can. “Godspeed” by Frank Ocean has been on repeat for most of the time I’ve spent writing this and I think it can sum things up really well. And it’s simply a beautiful song, so everyone should listen to it.

Washington D.C. is now the next stop and final stop for our train. It’s going to be extremely busy again for the next week… or month. So I’ll be sure to check in as soon as I can again. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read me ramble, thank you for the support thus far and into the future, and treat yourself to that song.

– Cody


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