From where I’m standing: an open-hearted hope

. . .[in gardens all misty & wet with rain]

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“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis,

I’ll be the first to admit that “Brown Eyed Girl” is probably my least favorite Van Morrison song.

Recently I started preparing for my move to Belfast in September.  Upon finishing my first batch of fundraising letters, I figured I’d celebrate with a little Van Morrison and C.S. Lewis to end the night on a regionally and culturally driven note.  And as I listened to Van’s greatest hits, I wondered if I liked every other song better than “Brown Eyed Girl” because of where I’m standing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to sing and dance along when I hear a band cover it on the weekends, but sometimes I let it remind me of a few sad moments over the years and I’d much rather drive down back country roads with “Into The Mystic,” “Sweet Thing” and “And It Stoned Me” reverberating off the dashboard.  Maybe it’s all in the lyrics, or the chord progressions, or the magic that flows through the sentence structure of the other three songs, but there’s more to Van Morrison than sha-la-la-las.  It’s important to not let one memory change the way you view an experience (or in this case, a great musician).

As C.S. Lewis says, what we see and hear comes from where we are standing. Our experiences affect the way we view the simplest things, like a song, a book or a movie.  We constantly spend too much time focusing on what we already know to open our minds to new feelings and new understandings.  Maybe we’re just drawn closer to symbols of comfort and commonalities that we push away anything that brings a bitter taste to our mouths or an uneasy feeling to our stomachs. We often lose sight of the big picture because of one little smudge on the canvas.

So we can let our beliefs, opinions and preconceptions dictate the way in which we experience another culture or community, or we can stand where they stand and push aside what we think we know and feel. We can even listen to Taylor Swift after four years of thinking we hate her. . .and then realize that maybeee she’s kind of awesome.

As I start another summer at Ligonier, and prepare for Northern Ireland this autumn, the hardest part for me is going to be letting go to have a completely open heart for a transformed mind in both situations.  This year I want to be the sort of person that fully embraces sights and sounds, whether new or familiar, and is willing to be shaped by them without letting bottled up fears and feelings get in the way.

After a few months back in the ‘Big Lig’ as the Next Level women’s director, I’ll be moving to Northern Ireland to share a flat with three other American YAVs, about 20 minutes outside of Belfast’s city centre.  We recently received our site placements, and I’m excited to announce I’ll be volunteering at the Garnerville Presbyterian Church, leading youth activities and partnering with a local primary school in East Belfast, and also The Vine Community and Advice Centre in North Belfast, working with an after-school tutoring program, senior citizens’ lunches, and an outreach program called JAFFA (Jesus A Friend For All). Although I don’t know specific details about my work, there may be opportunities to be creative with our placements (aka music, writing, dance, etc)!  I’ve visited Belfast, but I haven’t lived and worked in Belfast, and I look forward to the new streets I’ll get to wander and wonder down.

Here’s to hoping for open hearts and open minds,

xo

Hillary

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