[x_blockquote type=”left” style=”font-size: 100%;”]From the CROSS BlogA periodic check-in from our CROSS Interns, who dedicate their summer to help guide visiting youth groups as they serve in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, children’s programs, and other agencies that serve our neighbors in need.[/x_blockquote]As we near the end of the first month of CROSS, I am beginning the see the ways the CROSS experience has transformed me. Through the program, we discuss a lot with youth the importance of living out our mission statement. We teach and encourage them to CROSS out stereotypes, CROSS over boundaries, and SHARE God’s love.

This summer, rather than focusing specifically on sharing God’s love, we have emphasized living  out God’s love. We have done this in many ways, the most important of which has been to encourage them to leave their comfort zone and engage with their neighbors across Charlotte. Through my interactions with my groups, I have tried to explain the transformative nature of love. Millie Snyder, the Executive Pastor at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, has a metaphor that I have often used with my youth groups. She told us, the interns, “Christ’s work is like a pebble slowly being smoothed by drops of water. Not every drop leads to a noticeable drop, but the consistent drops of water will transform the shape of the pebble.”

As with the smoothing pebble, people are also transformed in this way. Often, youth struggle with whether they are actually having an impact. They may not be from Charlotte and they may never come to Charlotte again. They may be working at a ministry site where they have no interaction with the individuals the site serves, but rather spend the two hours sorting and arranging closets. Or, they may not understand the role ministry sites have in improving the lives of our neighbors. Through this metaphor, I help youth connect to the larger purpose of the work they are doing. Even if they are only working for two hours, they have taken a load off of someone else and the youth have learned to live with God’s love in simple ways.

Having the youth connect to their work is the initial step of teaching them to live out God’s love. However, the most important step is to encourage them to move beyond their comfort zones and engage with the people and the world around them. Admittedly, this was my weakest skill and the one that made me the most nervous.

As a natural introvert, I do not go out of my way to engage with people that I do not have some connection to. But as a CROSS intern, I talk to strangers every day and have learned incredible stories from them. As I said, moving beyond our comfort zones and engaging with people is how we live out Christ’s love.

Even when not on the job, the interns have realized the ways CROSS has transformed us, particularly in the ways that we connect with people. Every Thursday night, all the interns go to the Cook Out on Freedom Drive to celebrate another successful week. Two weeks ago, one of our neighbors experiencing homelessness approached us and asked for help. Liz immediately offered to buy him a meal. Prior to our internship, most of us would have been very uncomfortable with this encounter, and in some ways I still was. But as we talked with him and learned his story, that feeling of discomfort faded away.

I’m grateful for the opportunity CROSS gave me to challenge myself. In the past month, I have interacted with so many incredible organization and people that I would have never heard of without CROSS. But more than anything, I’m grateful that I have been able to take the lesson I teach my students about engaging with our many different neighbors and apply it to my own life.

-Mary Kathryn Barry

Mary Kathryn Barry is one of seven CROSS Interns living in the Cornerstone house this summer. CROSS Interns dedicate their summer to help guide youth groups as they serve in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, children’s programs, and other agencies that serve our neighbors in need.