Reflections of an intern: Celeste

It is kind of a shock to write this blog post. In one day, I will be concluding my time at the Gray Haven Project and beginning my senior year in college. The summer indubitably flew, and I can only brush the surface of what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in the process of this internship.

To begin, my arc shot in office trash can basketball has definitely improved. To date, I still haven’t won a game against the very competitive Gray Haven staff, but I still hold out hope for a string of lucky ceiling shots to happen one day. However, in all seriousness, this has very much been a growing up summer for me.

In terms of personal development, it helped to be thrown into leadership and responsibility right off the bat. I got the privilege of co-leading the intern team to put on an anti-trafficking documentary in Churchill, a learning experience in itself. I am not naturally a detail-oriented person, so it gave me plenty of opportunities to let go of my perfectionistic, independent tendencies (yes, perfectionism and detail struggles totally coincide. How, I have no idea.) and work with a phenomenal team of people. I won’t lie and say it didn’t cause me some level of anxiety to keep track of so many details, but the experience was invaluable in growing an area of weakness for me.

Another interesting challenge presented itself in direct services. I have gotten the opportunity to work with some of the Gray Haven’s clients before, but I was given the opportunity for much more exposure to different kinds of backgrounds and stories. I learned quickly that what my heart wanted to do was very different than what is actually helpful. I am the type of person who responds more with an emotional response instead of a logical one. When I see someone hurting, my first instinct is to comfort them and get on their emotional level to better empathize. However, at times, this is not what some of our clients need. For example, for me, comforting someone always somehow involves a big hug. For them, this could easily be a further violation of their personal space. This forced me to be much more creative with the ways I show empathy and care.

In terms of real life experience, this was by far the kindest introduction to the real world I could have asked for. A 9-5 with hourly responsibilities, weekly runs to all of Richmond’s cupcake and donut shops, and hands-on experience with some very difficult subjects prepared me above and beyond the necessary for whatever awaits me after graduation. I am now confident  that I can enter a grocery store without having a panic attack, pay my rent, get to work dressed in passable business casual, and that I will never have to repeat the experience of burning my salmon lunch at 7:30 in the morning almost setting off smoke alarms because I was too lazy to cook it the night before.

I came into my internship with the Gray Haven with a pretty good understanding of the facts of human trafficking, but very little understanding of the humanity and simplicity of the issue. An important realization about direct services is that it is something that carries over into every aspect of relationships. The principles are unbelievably simple: consider others as better than yourself, pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal cues, encourage and uplift mercilessly, be firm and gentle, and always be willing to listen. One of the biggest gifts to give another human being is undivided, unconditional attention and love. So often, love has conditions or expectations, which over time destroys people and relationships, since it is truly nothing more than love of self and convenience.

Not to say I have totally grasped all of these concepts, or even live them out in a day-to-day context, but I see glimpses of the fruit of such character traits through Andrea and the clients of the Gray Haven and am inspired to continue growing in that direction. For me, I can only hope to better know Christ and the crazy power of his resurrection to continue on this journey. It isn’t tangible or quantifiable, and yet the growth and depth I’ve experienced is undeniable and undeniably far from completion.