As I pulled a chair up to the table in the Eicher Conference Room in the Fort Wayne Alumni & Friends Resource Center, it felt like business as usual. Michael sat across from me, reviewing a project I had sent him and offering suggestions for improving it. I edited an article as we waited for the other staff and volunteers to arrive. But when a special guest, former TUFW professor Dr. Pam Jordan-Long, arrived, and I remembered that this day was different. This was my last day at the Resource Center.
Dr. Jordan-Long is my professional writing advisor. To wrap up my practicum, she conducted a site visit to ensure I met all the requirements to pass the course. As we led her on a tour of the Resource Center, it felt like my first day all over again. Except this time, I knew the deeper stories behind each room, book, and knickknack in the house. I knew our vision to care, connect, and celebrate.
Photo via Michael Mortensen
There is so much to say about my experience with the Fort Wayne Alumni & Friends Resource Center that I could write a blog post every day for the next six weeks and still not do it justice. I learned about writing: Reaching an audience, having a “you” attitude, honing my voice, versatility. I learned about teamwork: Communicating, receiving criticism well, adapting to other work styles, flexibility. I learned about nonprofit work: Providing resources, partnering with the community, working with a shoestring budget, fundraising. These skills will be invaluable to me as I enter the “real world” in just a few weeks.
But the most rewarding lesson I learned, hands down, was to lean in to this community of Fort Wayne campus alumni, listening, learning, and returning the warm embrace you offered from my very first day. The story of the Fort Wayne campus, and the stories of each of your lives, are what turned four credit hours into a life-giving experience. Every hour I invested was invested back into me through the volunteer team, through encouraging feedback from alumni, and through the rich memories you shared with me.
I have come to realize that any type of writing—from news to novels—is all about story. And story is all about people. This semester, you allowed me to live part of the Fort Wayne story, and that story has become a part of me that I will take with me wherever I go. I pray that my writing brought back memories of people, places, and events so familiar to you, yet so new to me. I pray my words brought healing, not pain. And I pray that every page I wrote contains a thought, a sentence, even just a word, that meant something to you and drew you closer to God.
That last day felt surreal as I pulled out onto Rudisill Boulevard at the end of the afternoon. When I took this road for the first time, the landscape was snowy and gray; empty, yet full of possibility. Now, as I turned onto Broadway, the lilac bushes on the edge of Foster Park were in full, aromatic bloom. The sun shone brightly and the earth was living and growing. Joy welled up in my heart as I realized that, even if I never drove this way again, those flowers would keep growing. The Master Gardener will still be at work watering them, just as he waters the “Vine of God’s own planting.”