I joined the Johnson Intern program on graduating from Emory in 2003. The combination of service, community life and spiritual development – set in beautiful Chapel Hill – was an irresistible opportunity. I found quick friends in my colleagues (Sarah, Marsha, Katie and Chris) and settled naturally into my role at Freedom House Recovery Center (where I interned as a case manager in the detox unit). The year was filled with a dynamic array of learning engagements, from a partnership with Public Allies to a class at UNC, an ESC conference in LA, and a spiritual direction retreat in OK (among countless other initiatives!).
On graduating, I saw a stint of election canvassing work with a friend in Pittsburgh before moving to be near family in Austin in late 2004. I would go on to work at a local nonprofit before continuing on to a Master’s in Education program (Cambridge, MA) and then a clinical psychology doctoral program (in Philadelphia). I have been a private practice psychologist in San Antonio, my home, since 2019.
I have consistently felt fondness when I’ve recalled the Johnson Intern Program over the years.
Yet I was not aware of the depth of affection until the 20 year reunion program last week. I found myself moved over and again as my attention settled on the rich tapestry of relationships, events and moments making up our year. Friday night Indian take out. West Wing watch parties. Disc golf on the UNC campus. The Weaver Street Co-op courtyard. Mary Agnes. Watty Bowes. Jim Crow. Bob Millikan. Mark Pandick. Cal Allen. And countless other relationship and experiences. My heart is warmed naming then again here.
With the benefit of some distance – and my training in psychology – I’ve come to see just how protective the Johnson Program was for me. In the vulnerable period of emerging adulthood – when early twenty-something’s are discovering their place in the world – made more precarious for me in the wake of losing both of my parents prematurely – the Johnson Intern Program held me, invited my voice, and fed my imagination. I felt loved. I couldn’t have named those things then (Youth is wasted on the young!), but I am without a doubt that JIP and the community around the Chapel of the Cross was critical to helping me settle more surely into myself and my capacity for service and real relationship.
I left our reunion call feeling a depth of gratitude for all of the persons making up the JIP. It is my intention moving forward to allow more space in my imagination for appreciating the many gifts of my JIP year, starting with a catch-up call my cohort has scheduled for this week.