My summer with Teen-JUST-US has taught me many meaningful concepts about life. One of the most important lessons I have learned is the idea of asking questions. I have always had an eager curiosity to learn about the world around me and to question ideas that do not make sense. I realized my excessive questioning at my internship. I was paired with Cradles to Crayons and was initially overwhelmed. This internship was a completely new experience for me and I often felt lost and disoriented in the rows of pallets and boxes of school supplies. I found myself in my supervisor’s office with questions concerning projects and upcoming events. I felt these questions made me incapable in my role as an intern, yet I soon came to see my misunderstanding.
It was not until we met as a cohort at the beginning of the summer that we became aware of the importance of asking questions. Our Summer Director, Emily, reassured our cohort that we have “a right to help and guidance, and we are learning.” This perspective on questions and the idea that we, as interns, are still learning encouraged me to apply this view in both my internship and other aspects of our summer together.
We were lucky enough to go on many field trips and had several guest speakers come and educate us on their stories and experiences. These trips and speakers all possessed different qualities and backgrounds that were somewhat unfamiliar to us. We had the unique opportunity to learn from other identities to better understand our role as Jews and as a society as a whole. However, we only learn by listening to a small extent. An example of this is when we went to The Carroll Center for the Blind. We had the opportunity to engage in their fencing program. We all seemed to enjoy and learn from the program but initially failed to understand its meaning. It was not until the end of our visit when a member of our cohort prompted the fencing instructor with the question of how long they had been teaching there. Although it may seem like a straightforward and important question, the answer had far more complex and fascinating roots. As the instructor explained his incredible backstory of getting into fencing, he described one of the most meaningful ideas I heard that day. He said that he had been teaching for 16 years, and trying to quit for 14 of them. What is stopping him from doing this is his passion for helping students find happiness and ambition in life. He recognizes the value in the dedication and pursuit of their well-being. It is somewhat scary that none of us would have ever known or fully understood this lesson of finding joy and good spirit in others if a question was not asked. When we create a more personal interaction, we are more likely to benefit from a deeper understanding.
I have developed this skill of asking questions this summer, and I look forward to utilizing it to create a better future for myself and others.