Sharpel Welch, an Army veteran and educator, is the Renewal Team Director at Community Renewal International, a faith-based, non-profit organization that brings together caring partners to restore the foundation of safe and caring communities. Sharpel and her team from Community Renewal recently participated in our Citizen Redefined training. This article is adapted from a recent conversation.
Years ago, we did this activity where the kids in our community wrote things they wanted to overcome — things they wanted to be healed of. We put them up on this cross in our building for everyone to see. They say things like, “I forgive my uncle for what he did to me.” Or, “I no longer feel like I’m ugly, I feel beautiful again.” Or, “Miss Sharpel taught me how to hold my head up high.”
If I was having a hard morning while in the Friendship House, I would go up to that cross and look at those messages of hope and healing that we’ve kept up there, and remember why I do what I do. As soon as a feeling of dread comes, I know I have tools and inspiration to get me right back to my purpose in life.
Everybody needs some kind of grounding activity, something to get you refocused, something to get you uplifted and back on track. With all the negativity that we see everyday, there’s something so refreshing about intentionally looking for the good in our society. That perspective changed my life.
There’s something so refreshing about intentionally looking for the good in our society.
I remember myself being nine years old — cooking, helping with homework, and getting my siblings up for school the next day. We had a period of just being unstable and living with whoever would take us in. I was excelling in school, even though everybody in my family had dropped out. But I felt invisible because education wasn’t really important in my home. So although I should have gone to college after high school — I graduated a year early in the top five percent of my class — I had no idea how to get to college. I joined the military and found out that through the GI bill I could also get a college education.
One part of my job that I love is identifying and connecting and mobilizing caring people.
I loved being in the military because it spoke to something that was already within me: a service mentality — that responsibility for the life I’ve been given. Everybody I work with at Community Renewal have also been activated intrinsically. They are doing something to make the world a better place. One part of my job that I love is identifying and connecting and mobilizing caring people. They’re not only caring for “me and my four and no more.” What connects us is just the ability to recognize that we are a part of something larger. That is our responsibility: to make this big thing better within our sphere of influence.
The Citizen Redefined training helped us do this even more. Most of us, although we do good work, feel that we walk around invisible. We’re doing the work, and we make big other people, but personally we often feel like we walk around invisible. So the feeling that I was being heard was priceless. It helped me see that each of us is powerful already, nobody has to bestow power upon us. We are powerful and we become dynamic when we connect our own individual power. This was a “chin up” moment for me.
We become dynamic when we connect our own individual power.
Some of it was learning, but it was also healing for our group. I saw people that I never heard speak out loud. I’m now in meetings with them and they’re speaking up and they’re all offering suggestions, coming up with solutions and being creative. The training was invigorating and we left with a renewed purpose and a renewed sense of who we are — and why we are.
Self-care is using the power that you have: being heard, being seen, even if it’s uncomfortable. Don’t let hurdles stop you from being 100% who you were put on this earth to be. This work isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.