Learning the Strength Gained in Openness
Reflections from My Summer Internship
The Women’s Bean Project office buzzed with a busy energy on Friday, August 16th. Though the office is usually lively with a flow of donors, program graduates, and the daily energy that sets this two-story building apart from just any other office, it was especially alive today. Not only was the Denver Roads Home committee here for their monthly employment meeting, there was also a huge volunteer group from Ernst and Young. The large gathering brought the conference room over-capacity for our Friday morning meeting, encouraging a relocation to the kitchen.
Even the office kitchen overflowed with the day’s visitors. As the room quieted in anticipation of the beginning of the meeting, I became conscious of the presence of new ears; something that makes you hear things differently, sparking a hyper-awareness that changes a routine.
Business as Usual
The meeting opened as it always does with a quote from one of the women in the program, who rotate leading every Monday and Friday. Next, we transitioned into my favorite part of the meeting: the weekly goals. First thing on Monday, each person states their personal as well as their professional goals, and on Friday everyone reflects on their progress.
I particularly enjoy our discussion of goals during Friday meetings. In certain settings, the reflection of the week’s progress may bring with it a sense that you could have done more, should have done more, with the four days that have just passed. But here, there is never an implication of shame if you don’t accomplish your set tasks, only support and emphasis that the very act of setting goals is what will propel your life forward. This is a perspective I didn’t take until my time at the Bean, but I find it powerful in its subtlety. I anticipate I will take it with me wherever I go next.
Meaning Beyond Weekly Tradition
At the beginning of my internship here, I was struck by how vulnerable and deeply personal the goals are that each woman shares with the group. Subjects such as addiction and family struggles come up often, creating an honest and safe environment at the office that is unique from any other I’ve been a part of. Even now, nearing the end of my internship, I find it difficult to be as open as my colleagues. The women here remind each other of the strength to be gained in the act of sharing, and in turn the importance of holding yourself accountable for your own progress. This has become beneficial to me in and outside of the office as I not only make strides in my work but also begin to take on obstacles in my personal life that are easily set aside in the face of seemingly more urgent matters.
As I stood in the Friday morning meeting on August 16th, I could feel the surprise and admiration the visitors felt as we went around the room to do our Friday follow ups on the week’s goals. Again, I was reminded of the unique openness that sets this organization apart. The visitors quickly adapted to the rhythm of the room, clapping along with us as each woman shared the goals she had or had not accomplished. The clapping only grew as Miranda presented the “You Rock” Rock (a weekly award that goes to one woman in the program to recognize her hard work) to Felisha. Felisha had been working hard, taking big steps forward with her GED, and attended the job fair in anticipation of her pending graduation from the Bean. The room exploded with applause, and Miranda’s pride in Felisha was contagious.
Important Lessons from Some Strong Ladies
As the Friday morning meeting closed, I felt the appreciation I feel everyday working at Women’s Bean Project through the new eyes of visitors. I have learned from the women at the Bean that the magic happens when we not only set goals for ourselves, but also reflect on the challenges and successes that we face on the journey to accomplishing them. Every week, I am reminded to be open as I move through and towards new goals by the women surrounding me, many who are setting goals much more profound than mine.
As the crowded kitchen flooded out to get the morning started, I recognized again how powerful this place is, how powerful the act of setting a goal is, and how the most powerful thing is the strength gained in openness.
Written by Madeline Bragg, Marketing & Communications Intern