The Power of Retreat

April is a report heavy month here at Volunteer Maryland.  Our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators just submitted their mid-year report full of data and stories and our sites submitted an update on how they are doing with their National Performance Measures.  What this means is Laura Aceituno, VM’s Program Manager extraordinaire is spending many quality hours reading and aggregating data for our Quarterly Progress Report due in mid-April.  Reporting is of course necessary in this world of service, but so is taking a step back.  Reports can offer a moment of reflection for the writer as they discuss successes and challenges and build the narrative of progress thus far through stats and stories, but there is something missing here.  What is missing is the space to give all of this work meaning, and commit to keeping on.

It has been well documented that an AmeriCorps member’s service is not easy.  It has tough road written all over it, and that toughness can get to the best of us.  Volunteer Maryland refers to this time as “the dips”.  It is when a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator finds it hard to see progress in their work, and the limited resources available to them seem more limited than ever.  This can be a dark time for those on the getting things done highway as their journey is half over, but the light at the end of the tunnel can seem a bit faint.  So how do you help folks get over this bump, and onto a successful second half?  You take them away.

Each year, VM hosts a retreat for the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator’s to re-charge, re-access and re-commit to their service.  In the past, the retreat was a two day affair with an overnight stay.  This year we are trying a new approach. Many of our folks have part-time jobs, or take classes in the evening or have families to take care of, so the overnight aspect of the retreat posed a problem.  This year we are doing a one-day retreat with a focus on leadership and deepening service.  This retreat is for the VMCs, but the truth is I am really looking forward to it.  The opportunity to pause, and build skills for what is to come seems luxurious and almost decadent, like a huge box of delicious chocolates.  But here is the thing, pausing is just the right move when each move feels heavy with little to no progress.  That pause can lead to new ideas, new attitudes, and new opportunities bringing changes from dip to doing.  Pausing with purpose is the true power of a retreat.

Taking a pause, even if it is just for a breath can be just the thing for what dips you.

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