I made the decision to go to Three Rivers in an end-of-semester panic, and entered the town in a post-grad daze. Interning with *cino had been in the back (and occasionally in the front) of my head since spring of 2012, when I visited the organization through Calvin College’s Service-Learning Center. However, living a half hour from my hometown was far less exhilarating than the traveler’s life I’d long dreamed of for myself.
With the end of school approaching, I scrambled for an answer to the question we anxious, indecisive students hate most. (Though this question persists throughout one’s college career, for me, it wasn’t until senior year that I actually let it tangle up with my romantic thoughts regarding the future.)
Dialogue that included said question went as follows:
Relatives I rarely see, acquaintance-classmates, dental hygienists, etc.: “So, what are your plans after graduation?”
Chelsea’s Mouth: “Yeah. Um. Yeah. I’m not really sure yet. I’ve thought a lot about teaching abroad, so that’s a possibility. Eventually grad school. I’d kind of like to lie low for a while, though, so we’ll see.”
Chelsea’s Brain: “OREHJAKOOFHWBEJEWELFS. I DON’T KNOW. THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE A BLACK HOLE. PLEEEEEASE STOP ASKING ME THIS QUESTION.”
In the end, *cino was a solid response — something to halt the caps lock in my head, if you will. Three Rivers seemed like a good place to pause and breathe while continuing to learn and be useful. It was a new orbit, which I needed, but one containing familiar values and concerns. The welcoming tone that each of *cino’s emails contained didn’t hurt either. When preparing to leap, it’s nice to know there are friendly arms on the other side… friendly and willing to help carry your excessive amounts of clothes and books on move-in day.
As these things tend to go, when I first arrived in Three Rivers, expectations were quickly shaken and made to adjust. Those expectations remained unmet, but that’s because they also remain oblivious to the needs of a fledging nonprofit and to a town experiencing various forms of injustice. During the readjustment, Ainsley (good pal, fellow intern, fellow Trinity Episcopal basement dweller, zooby zooby) and I decided to be “yes” people, because that’s all we could do in a semi-foreign place — feel around for gaps to fill and hope our efforts helped. Consequently, my role with *cino involved a little of this and a little of that. I did primarily communications work, making promotional videos and writing blog posts, but I was also able to interact with the community in some unexpected ways. As much as I enjoy piecing together footage or interviewing adult members of the community, an afternoon of reading Holes and talking technology with a soon-to-be-eleven-year-old will always stand a little brighter in my memory than any field-related task. (His life advice, by the way: “Put away the electronics.”)
I’ve heard some great visions for the future of *cino and for Huss School, and hearts of staff members and volunteers are aching to move and love in radical ways, but it’s not always easy to stay positive while maintaining an organization. It’s a stressful gig, and it takes moments like this, simple, yet profound, to keep us calm and steady. My hope for *cino is that they continue to listen to their neighbors, no matter how small, and to care for their wounds. As a result of this attentiveness, I hope that current expectations are thwarted in beautiful ways, just as mine were, to reveal a space impossible to imagine.
After a memorable summer, I’m now back in Grand Rapids, working in a couple cafes and considering my next move. Teaching abroad is still on the table, but if I’ve learned anything in the last few months, it’s that these strange transitional days matter, and that you can’t go wrong when you pay attention to those around you and invest your energy in the present.
Thank you, *cino & company, for supporting me this summer, for expanding my understanding of hospitality, and for giving the people of Three Rivers a safe place to learn, play and create.