Jonah Heiser ’17 writes on his experience as an Addison County Shepherd Intern at John Graham Housing & Services.
This summer I am interning at the John Graham Housing and Services Shelter which serves the homeless population in Addison county by providing emergency shelter, food, affordable transitional housing, case management, counseling, and hope. The experiences I have had at the shelter thus far have exceeded all expectations I held coming into the summer. Each day brings new tasks and new challenges. I may spend one day moving furniture into an apartment and the next day playing games with kids at the shelter or bringing a family to the doctor’s office. While the work is incredibly varied from day to day, I take great comfort in knowing that each task I do benefits a resident in the shelter. Scrubbing a kitchen clean for five hours is not always the most fun job to do, but knowing that a woman will get to move into her own new, clean apartment because of that laborious work makes every second of cleaning worthwhile. Still, the most meaningful times at the shelter for me have come in the quiet moments. I have come to realize that giving someone a kind smile, an ear to listen, or a bit of hope in any way needed can often be more powerful than giving that person a piece of furniture, meal, or a sum of money. I have made some exceptionally deep relationships with certain residents of the shelter and find myself caring so much for them both at the shelter and at home after a long day of work, as this is not the kind of work that stops the minute my shift is over. I carry these people’s stories with me throughout the day and often find myself reflecting back on my own experiences, thankful for every bit of privilege I have had throughout my life and equally thankful for every challenge, trial, or difficult time that I have faced, for it is those hard memories that have driven me to this work and motivated every act of compassion offered. I am truly humbled by the knowledge that I am a part of this mission to change the lives of those we seek to help. It has been such a blessing to work at the Shelter this summer.