“Returning to In-Person Engagement” – Sarah Ayers ’23

Welcome back to the CBL Intern Blog for 2021-2022! I am currently experiencing two overwhelming emotions as I write this post: gratitude and excitement. Both of these feelings stem from the fact that this year many CBL students have the chance to return to in-person community engagement. It has been well over a year since I last sat in one of the Holy Cross vans silently reflecting on the time I spent at Ascentria Care Alliance and eagerly imagining the next time I would get to go back. I still remember the anxiety I felt walking into the English-speaking class at Ascentria for the first time during my second semester at Holy Cross, and the immediate relief I felt when one of the participants waved me over to sit next to him. Now I am finally able to say that after a year of Zoom calls, internet connection issues, and beginning to talk while I’m still muted, I will be returning to in-person engagement.

I think many can agree that forming new, meaningful connections has not been easy in the time of COVID-19. I felt disconnected from my fellow Holy Cross students and faculty, and I felt almost as if my relationships with the Worcester community were entirely severed. This semester, CBL students at the college have the privilege to build new relationships and strengthen old ones with our community partners, many of whom surely missed our presence as well. I am excited to begin my time at Brookdale Eddy Pond, an assisted living community about ten minutes away from campus. While I have not spent much time in nursing homes in the past, I recognize that the elderly are one of the most vulnerable communities due to the pandemic. Many residents have been separated from family members, friends, and at times other residents for prolonged periods of time. I am looking forward to the opportunity to provide any sense of relief or comfort in a time that has proven to be unprecedented for the residents at Brookdale.

Although all my typical first day of engagement worries still linger, I am going into this semester of service with a greater sense of gratitude than I have in the past. I am grateful for the chance to sit in a room with another person who does not attend or work at the college. I am grateful that I will once again have a reason to leave the hill and our Holy Cross bubble every week to learn more about the people in the Worcester community. Finally, I am grateful that I will soon experience the mutualistic relationships that are born from community engagement. So, whether you are beginning community engagement at Holy Cross for the first time this semester or returning to it, I implore you to recognize your own gratitude for the opportunity that lies ahead.