by Sophia Houghton
I started interning at CRYJ in June, 2016. I’ll never forget first taking in the space – it’s high, sturdy ceiling, the character-filled paintings and photos, and the colorful warn-in couches. It felt like walking into a warm, safe place. At the time, this was a relief because the different parts of my new life-situation were not yet warm or safe; I felt divided and scattered. During my interview with Anders, Catherine, and Kelsey, I was struck by how receiving and open they were to my story and how content they seemed within their environment and with each other. The nerves and critical standards I’d set for myself before entering that conversation became curiosity and admiration once they spoke to what CRYJ truly is: a place to be human.
Amidst waves of my own struggles, joys, high and low points, I grew to hold a deep connection with this place that upholds both passion – to make a community (and the world) more whole – and compassion – to accept and recognize people as people. I started participating in the Community Impact Circle, and each Monday night on the walk home I felt changed in both subtle and profound ways. There was something so honest about the concept and reality of those conversations. Whether or not individuals were able to verbalize their deeper truths in the moment, just being there and holding space together was always an honest experience. Through simply listening to people talking about their realities; through these miniscule glimpses into both pain and connection, I learned lessons that I believe will guide me for the rest of my life. I learned that, no matter how big my small world of experiences and environments has felt, there are entire universes which I have yet to understand, and ones that I may only be able to give deep empathy to. I learned to accept the inherently flawed nature of community; that seeking positive change is what brings people together – not being in a constant state of perfection. I learned that resilience needs love and acknowledgement. I learned that it really is possible to commit one’s life (and my life) to seeking and making that change. Catherine, Kelsey, Kate, Burket and Shareen have helped me believe that on a core level. The families and youth that I have shared space with and listened to have taught me the humility and grace of looking beyond the barrier between “self” and “other”.
By providing intentional space where shame is allowed to represent an opportunity for growth instead of a catalyst of destruction, CRYJ is a healing movement. I am deeply grateful to have been even a small part of the conversations, tasks, laughter, quiet moments, and courage that make such a movement possible. Thank you – to this community and to the people who dedicate their time, energy, thoughts, and passion to CRYJ.
Editor’s Note: Sophia has been an incredible asset to CRYJ in her time here, and we are all so proud of her. She is going to change the world.