When I started this fellowship, there was no telling where it would lead me. It was hard to see what God may have had planned for me but I knew it was time for a leap of faith I had to take. In just 3 days, I had my interview, got accepted, signed my contract and packed up everything I owned. I was moving into a new house with new roommates and the promise of a new job within a community of folks who were as passionate about social change as I was.
Before coming into this program, I had a passion for helping others overcome homelessness, understanding domestic violence, aiding in the triumph over addiction, and disrupting the cycle of repeat offense. After my two week training, I learned that my site placement would actually be two different churches with a shared vision of “Asset Mapping.” Honestly, I had no idea what asset mapping was about to begin with and I was skeptical about whether happiness and passion would evade me this year. Still, I went forward.
Turns out that asset mapping wasn’t some foreign concept. Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) was developed by John L. McKnight and John P. Kretzmann, who co-authored the book, “Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing A Community’s Assets”, after 30 years of research on the concept. I learned that asset mapping is designed to promote connections or relationships between individuals, between individuals and organizations, and between organizations within a community. Though I could see the goodness in implementing this concept, what did all this mean for me, a stranger to this city of Fall River? Where would I start, who would I talk to, what exactly did this role mean to me?
A few months later, these same unanswered questions continued to linger and I grew more tired of my role. I began to think about who I was before I joined Life Together and what previously motivated me: helping others overcome homelessness, understanding domestic violence, aiding in the triumph over addiction, and disrupting the cycle of repeat offense. I realized that I had lost sight of my own passions, or at least they were put on the backburner of my mind and heart, in order to fulfill the needs of the program. Once I recognized the disconnect, I could no longer will myself happy to do the work. Then, I heard my supervisor say something that was extremely enlightening considering what I was going through: "Sometimes you have to let your needs be known without having the expectation that they will be met." Suddenly, I felt so relieved. Though nothing had changed, with that thought alone, I felt an emotional weight being lifted immediately. I knew it was time to start thinking about what I wanted from this program and that it was okay to think about myself.
Shortly after experiencing this epiphany, I called all my supervisors and had a meeting. I found the courage to tell them about what I had been experiencing on my plight of Asset Mapping and how I felt out of sorts with it. I told them what my passions were before joining the program: helping others overcome homelessness, understanding domestic violence, aiding in the triumph over addiction, and disrupting the cycle of repeat offense, and how I'd hoped the job would somehow align but it didn't. Finally, I expressed my need. I told them I wanted to take my true passions off the backburner and asked if there was a way to still be able to fulfill my commitment to the program while doing so. Was there a place where my desires and the purpose of Asset Mapping could meet? To my surprise, my supervisors were excited to hear and even began to name the gifts they'd seen in me, that perhaps weren't being utilized to their full potential. They were enthusiastic and mindful about making sure to take action. And once again, the feeling of knowing it was time to take a leap of faith settled within me.
My name is Sharley Paul. As a Life Together Fellow, I have joined the South Coast Mission Hub on their mission of Asset Mapping; building connections within the community of Fall River and filling the gap between individual, organization and community. I visit homeless shelters, domestic violence programs, rehab clinics, and the court justice system to fulfill both the Asset Mapping vision and continue my plight in helping others overcome homelessness, understanding domestic violence, aiding in the triumph over addiction, and disrupting the cycle of repeat offense.
Wonders can happen when you take the journey of finding out just who you are and what you came to this beautiful earth to do. Magic ignites when you follow your heart in every circumstance. Integrity is built when you find the courage to speak your truth. Peace is had when you “let your needs be known without having the expectation of them being met.” It’s a very uncomfortable place to be, indeed, but taking a leap of faith is perhaps the only way to uncover the greatness within you.