Reflecting on my time with NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore I like to think back to the questions I was first asked when I learned where I would spend my year as a Lutheran Volunteer Corps member. The assumptions made about the city were those you would expect from those who have never made it to Charm City, formed from equal parts ‘The Wire’ and ‘Hairspray.’ Nothing prepared me for the year that was ahead of me. While I knew the hyper stylized idea of Baltimore was far from reality, I was still unsure of what that truth would ultimately be. I had questions of how it would change me, of the challenges ahead of me, and how I would be able to serve well. While I was certainly excited, it was far easier to focus on the anxieties of transition, a feeling only magnified by an uncertainty of having no sense of connections or community in a new home.
Fast forward to a year after first setting foot in the office, I realize how that feeling of hesitation which surrounds a time of transition so closely ties to the work of NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore. Our programs serve those transitioning from a time of fear to hope, from questioning to understanding. Throughout my year I was able to see the transition from dark days to recovery and hope. A change of attitudes from ignorance and fear to understanding and empathy. As the work continues, these questions and insecurities will continued to be experienced for the first time or for what some might feel like the hundredth. For some they will be new and daunting, and for others revisiting them with a new sense of perspective as peer, family member, volunteer, or community member.
As I brag to all those who will listen about those who I had the pleasure to meet during my year with NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore, I focus on one particular aspect. Rather than seeking to provide a service limited to a singular interaction, the idea of true connection is uplifted. It is not enough for our volunteers, staff, or board to provide a program and move on, instead they seek a relationship which will strengthen and enrich all those involved. This belief and attitude is that which I will remember most fondly and continue to emulate in my future. It was always a joy to see how the NAMI effect spread from one interaction to families, neighborhoods, and then to the city. Now I am tasked with sharing these lessons and attitude to a community far separate from Baltimore.
As I prepare for the next season of life, I look forward to taking the lessons learned from so many. There is little I can say to express the pride and gratitude for the opportunity to have served with such an important organization made of such extraordinary people. Rest assured I look forward to hearing how NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore continues to expand and can hope to be so lucky as to return to Baltimore as soon as possible.
Alec Van Dyke served as the Communications Assistant at NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. During his year of service, Alec expanded NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore’s services to include programs for youth, including piloting Breaking the Silence in Baltimore area schools. He begins a master’s program in Child Life at the University of Akron’s School of Speech Language and Pathology and Audiology this fall.
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