By Hilary “the Intern” Wolkan
Many of you know that my time at Lydia’s House is drawing to a close, and I will be moving on to a similar position in Boston. While I am tremendously excited for this next chapter God is calling me to, it is with a heavy heart that I leave the Lydia’s House community, the family that I have been so blessed to have been a part of these past 10 months.
When I first started my time at Lydia’s House, I had no idea what I was doing. I had just come out of eight years of studying and practicing archaeology, and while I knew I was being called to a life working with the urban poor, I was trained in absolutely nothing related to it. Mary Ellen and Meridith will tell you that in my interview for the position, they listed all the tasks they’d like me to complete, and for almost every item I replied “I have zero experience in that but I’m willing to learn.” I thought it would be a miracle for them to take a chance on me, but they did, and thus began one of the most influential years of my life.
Ostensibly, my time at Lydia’s House taught me fundamental skills for pursuing a career in the non-profit sector: I can tell you a lot about which programs are great for e-marketing or recording donations, and if you ever need to write a blog post for WordPress, I’m your girl. I’ve also been able to add event planning, communications, and development to my résumé, making me feel much more confident as I start this new path in life. But these abilities are not what I’m taking away from my time here. The impact of my internship is much deeper.
I came to Cincinnati vaguely aware of the severity of poverty in our nation, with no real concept of the battle we are fighting. I had never heard of the Catholic Worker movement, and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how to help alleviate poverty. Through Lydia’s House, I learned about and, more importantly, experienced the brokenness of our world. I met women and children in crisis whose only hope was our home. I worked side-by-side with a generous grassroots community who gave endlessly for our cause—a group of supporters who would welcome me with open arms and whose banner I happily took as my own. Through Mary Ellen and Meridith, and the wider Lydia’s House family, fighting poverty seemed much more achievable, and it became the only battle I wanted to fight.
During my time here, I became more and more aware of how important an organization like Lydia’s House is: we are present and ready to catch those who fall through the cracks of society, the ones who are often forgotten but need the most help. But there is also something spiritual, something contagious about the Lydia’s House community. It seems no matter where I went in Cincinnati, I was met by an increasing number of people who knew about and support the work we do. It’s as if Lydia’s House is a lantern in the city, glowing brighter and brighter each day. A lighthouse for homeless women and children. A beacon rallying our city to join us in support. We emit the radical energy of doing God’s work in our own neighborhood, and people can’t help but get involved somehow.
It is true I am leaving for Boston, but a part of me will never really leave. I will be in the bluish-grey stairs I painted one summery afternoon, the worn-but-loved pages of the books I placed on the shelves of the children’s room, and the plastic pink seats I constructed in the office. I will welcome each new guest that crosses our threshold, and will proudly beam when they move in to their own independent housing. Lydia’s House is so much more than a job I spent 15 hours a week doing; it’s a representation of the life I want to lead and the person I want to be. Lydia’s House has become more than a home of hospitality: it has become my home, one that I will never truly leave.
I can’t express my gratitude for the opportunity and the friendship that this internship has brought me, mainly because the words just don’t exist. Thank you for letting me a part of this beautiful journey, and may God bless every step of your path as you continue to bring God’s kingdom to Cincinnati.