Written by Triniti Horner
Every college student knows the feeling of the spring semester. As it begins, students are fueled by the disdain for having to do anything after a three-week break. Spending the holidays with our families, eating too much food, and napping as much as possible and now professors want me to THINK for a living? No way. Alas, we must move on and look forward to warmer weather, and, if we’re lucky, a summer internship. As a Family and Human Services major, summer internships for my field in Northwest Arkansas are few and far between. Looking for internships is no easy feat. To decide whether or not you want to work for the state, a non-profit or a church, for money or for experience, inside or outside, administratively or hands-on – you get the idea. Amidst loads of coursework, we cast a wide net, hoping to catch one or two fish.
Thankfully, I landed the job here at NWA Women’s Shelter (NWAWS). The work this organization does is crazy important, and I’m not just saying that because I have to. Our goal is to fight back against domestic violence. This can include but is not limited to, physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, cultural, or digital abuse. Domestic abuse comes in many shapes and sizes; our shelter seeks to recognize the nuances of abuse and provide the services that are necessary for our survivors. Our shelter is one of two in Northwest Arkansas. To explain why this is important, I will now throw some numbers at you, so be prepared for that. More than half a million people live in Northwest Arkansas, and about 40,000 people have or will experience domestic abuse whether that be from an intimate partner or someone else in their family. In Arkansas, 41% of females and 35% of males will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. (NCADV, 2020) With NWA being one of the most popular places to be in Arkansas, the number of people our shelter will serve is continually increasing. We are the only shelter in our area that serves clients who are escaping anything other than intimate partner violence. We love to help anyone who doesn’t feel safe in their homes and creates a place of safety for themselves and for their families.
Now that we have the numbers out of the way, what I would like to share with you readers are some of the questions that have come up for me over my past month working here. Why are you doing what you do? How are you showing up for the people around you and for yourself? How can I make a difference? I know these are simple questions, but for me, they have complex answers. Life can become monotonous. Waking up, going to work, eating the same lunch every day (shoutout to Walmart’s chicken salad), driving home, making dinner, watching TV, going to bed, and then repeating. The lifestyle many of us live and find boring at times, is one of privilege. Over the past couple of years, I have been learning to see where privilege shows up. Our nation has seen a lot of this in political, macro-sized conversations, but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about micro-sized privilege in our day-to-day lives.
Why Are You Doing What You Do?
The people we serve in our shelters are fleeing for their lives. Each day is a fight to regain their life and freedom to be in charge of all areas of their personhood. This has pushed me to consider why I want to work for NWAWS. I am the Development and Thrift Store intern this summer. Thrift store? You may be asking, “Why do you work at a thrift store?” and honestly, I asked myself that, too. The NWAWS Thrift Store provides one of the most consistent and vital sources of revenue that helps the shelter to serve their clients. While at first glance, it may look like working retail (and I do get some experience with that), it is about the “why” we sift through bins of clothing, price them fairly, organize, hang them up, stand on our feet all day, smile when customers give us a hard time, and lift heavy boxes filled with donations. It will help us to better serve the men, women, and children who aren’t safe. Being involved, no matter how small it may seem, serves a larger purpose whenever we are fully committed to the mission. I’ve decided to work for NWAWS because I am fully committed to the mission of the shelter and will do whatever it takes to make sure people are cared for.
“How am I Showing up for the People Around Me and Myself?”
Oftentimes, I gauge how well I am showing up for others based on their responses to me. How others are around me, how they speak to me, and how we interact are all parts of this question. While working at the thrift store, I have the opportunity to get to know the women (and men!) that are part of making all that the shelter does possible. All of their personalities are beautiful and have something unique to bring to our work at NWAWS. They are all passionate, driven, hard-working, chatty, and fully themselves. But, as we all know, working with other people is hard. It’s hard to put up with their feelings as well as our own. It’s hard to know how our tone comes across when we speak to one another. It’s hard to communicate clearly and effectively, especially with new co-workers. It’s hard to show up personally and professionally. We’ve all had our moments at work where we were done and wanted to do nothing but lie on the couch and watch our favorite comfort show. However, working with other people is also beautiful. We learn, laugh, grow, and live life alongside each other. We get united under a specific and important goal. We get to see others thrive and do their work well. To me, that is what motivates me to go to work every day. I get to show up for others and in the process learn something deeper about myself. Whether I learn that I’m not awful at designing a graphic on Canva or that I am clumsy when people are watching me do a simple task, I am growing. Constantly blossoming into a better version of myself causes me to pour that goodness into my work. That’s how I want to show up for myself and others, in a way that fosters a further understanding of my coworkers as well as myself.
How do I Make a Difference?
The simple, yet complex answer I have come up with is: just be you. We live in a time when it feels hard to be unique. Social media has shown us what is popular, gets the most likes, and is most common. To stand out would be a risk. To be different is simultaneously praised and demeaned. What I would like to see in myself is the ability to take risks for causes that I am passionate about. Risks can be a plethora of different things. It can be the risk of volunteering—what some would consider “wasting” my own time. Or it could be the risk of using my knowledge of Spanish to speak to people in my second language, running the risk of messing up and offending someone. Whatever a risk looks like to you, I would encourage you to take it. Life is too short to be worried about what everyone else is doing. We are only in control of ourselves and how we are utilizing our time, privilege, and energy to make a difference in the lives of others.
So yeah, that’s what I’ve learned working here at the NWAWS. If anything I said resonates with you, please feel free to reach out to us and get more involved in what we do here. We love volunteers at our Thrift Store and are always willing to help when we are able to do so.
Click here for more information on volunteering or email Amber to get connected.