By Danielle Steinwart - Marketing and Development Intern
I remember there was no air conditioning on the metro car as Nura and I squeezed into it on my first day of work. The air was stuffy and hot, as if it all had already been breathed in, and as the doors shut and we pulled away from the bustling Rosslyn station, a morning quiet fell over the packed car.
I’ve always loved public transportation, especially metro systems. I don’t know if it’s the maps marking how the lines overlap and run together, splayed and pumping through the city like a great, colorful heart. More likely it’s this idea that crammed in this metro car are men and women from many walks of life, with unique goals and passions, with different careers, from diverse political, spiritual, and ethnic backgrounds. Crammed into this metro car are people who would never otherwise interact with those four inches from them, and here we are, all together for a few moments, filling the same space, holding the same rails, going in the same direction. I think there’s something beautiful to that, even without air conditioning.
Around me, everyone was still waking up, dressed sharply in their suits and skirts, and headed to work somewhere—I had convinced myself—important and glamorous. And I got to be part of it all.
As the metro train bounded toward its next stop, I thought about what I was hoping for at my internship this summer with LSA. I had never been to Washington D.C. and had never had a nine-to-five job. Just a couple weeks before, I’d walked across a stage at Valparaiso University (Valpo) and received my degree (okay, my degree holder). The future was fuzzy and uncertain, as it tends to be for anyone screwy enough to major in Creative Writing.
Valpo likes to stress the importance of one’s vocation, “where passion meets purpose,” and I spent a lot of time senior year reflecting on my passions and skills and purpose (which basically meant a lot of late-night existential crises and cookie dough ice cream). And amidst the stress and strain of rummaging within my heart and mind for a vocation, I realized I had a deep fervor for service, for a dedication to others.
So when my friend told me about a program run by the Institute of Leadership and Service at Valpo, I knew I had to apply. Through this CAPS program, I was given an internship with LSA in the marketing and development departments. Before arriving, I’d researched the organization, spoken with friends who’d had the internship before me, and talked on the phone with my supervisor about the position. But as we spilled out of the metro car at Capitol South station, I still didn’t really know what to expect.
Thankfully, my first day—and first few weeks, actually—was better than I could have hoped for. Nura and I have gotten to meet with all the different departments to see how our individual work fits into the overall process and to get a better understanding of LSA’s mission and work. LSA empowers its member organizations (made up of Lutheran nonprofits) not only through funding support and important advocacy work, but also by using their network to connect organizations who have similar services, goals, and challenges.
The work is inspiring, as are the people here at LSA who do it. Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to know the LSA staff as hardworking, compassionate, talented people who strive to serve LSA’s members and, by extension, those their members are serving. The work I’m doing has been teaching me how to communicate with and celebrate our members, and I’m more than grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the great things happening here. I’m excited for what the rest of the summer brings, as I delve more deeply into my work, explore this wonderful city, and spend more time with my phenomenal work- and roommate Nura.
Heading home on the metro last week (it’s funny how it already seems like home here), I was once again standing in the middle of an overcrowded car. Surrounded by this medley of men and women, I couldn’t help but think of LSA and its work. Just like this train, LSA puts people together who are from different homes and possess different worldviews. LSA connects people who would never have otherwise interacted with one another and gives them the opportunity to move forward together, equipped perhaps with alike goals or with solutions to shared problems. With LSA’s help, these people can reach their goals, their destinations, more quickly, as they are encouraged to not make the journey alone. And I’m just grateful to stand and be part of it.