After serving two years as our Office Administrator, Leslie Carranza moved into a role of Compañera this summer, offering accompaniment services in partnership with the Quinn Center of St. Eulalia in Proviso Township. Below is a reflection on her first several months as a Compañera.
It feels most organic to use Bishop Untener’s prayer “Prophets of a Future Not Our Own” as a point of reflection, so please forgive me if this text is referred to ad nauseam.
“Planting seeds” by Leslie Carranza
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. I often get so tangled in the weeds that I need to make a conscious effort to step outside of myself to get back to why we do the work we’ve set out to accomplish. The fulfillment of our mission is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our tenure only a tiny fraction of this ambitious enterprise, so “That all may be one”.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that a more united and just society always lies beyond us.
No grant appeal can fully communicate the disparity in connections of people in need to the agencies created to serve them.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No correspondence guarantees a response.
No tear filled in-office session brings permanent peace of mind.
No program meets all of a family’s needs.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
Yet this is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We share tips that could be the missing piece in a puzzling case.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise, or more appropriately, that red tape is the necessary evil we can help navigate in a system not designed for everyone to succeed.
We leave enough detail in case notes to paint a window into a client’s story.
We collect data that produces far beyond our capacity to disseminate it.
While at Quinn, I largely had to play roles that have traditionally been divvied up into other positions: representing TDJ in one-on-one meetings to prospective partners, collaboratives, gathering information on various agencies for service and to serve; answering calls of potential clients and conducting intakes; updating the resource bulletin board in the soup kitchen waiting area; troubleshooting with the internet, my computer, phone system, and printers; interpreting for Quinn center volunteers and patrons that only knew Spanish. Frankly, I felt like I was trying to do the work of what it normally takes a whole team to do. But at least I wasn’t reinventing the wheel and had an idea of where to ask for help.
Though silly to have to state: I cannot do everything and waves of liberation wash over me upon remembering that. When in the thick of this pilot project, what has helped me stay positive is relying upon others, refusing any opportunities to do this work half heartedly. A stakeholder at some point had told me this position is too important to fail for process reasons and I often fall back on that reminder when my own fears and insecurities jeopardize progress. As a largely independent person, asking for help is hard for me to do. Fortunately, I’ve had a couple of incredible advocates and leaders serving as my supervisors, both of whom are not only aware of, but work with my idiosyncrasies and strengths to ensure the best possible outcome. With the assistance of our team of Compañerxs and our steadfast culture of creative problem solving, I’ve been able to seek the support of people whose strengths pick up where mine leave off and will hopefully expedite the entry of all the information I’ve been diligently collecting this summer to continue meeting our clients where they’re at and shoulder unyielding barriers to service.
We are workers, not master builders, though I’d argue that the work put into this summer pilot has required a lot of fundamental relationship building– ministers, not messiahs–though people call me a jack of all trades, I’ve never claimed to have the solutions to everyone’s problems. This is especially hard to tell someone carrying a massive cross with no other plausible opportunity for relief.