“Member Me.” My Experience as a LIFT Intern

By LIFT on August 23, 2017

Categories: First Person Perspective, Our Work

I had a really good summer.

Every morning, I came to work in the most important city in the world. Before work began, I would nestle up with a great book for an hour. From my park bench, I could look to my right and see the Washington Monument or look to my left and see the White House.

At work, I had challenging, yet engaging tasks and responsibilities. I was granted a voice – I was asked for “upward feedback” more times than I could count. When I messed up, the first words out of my supervisors’ mouths were almost always, “what could I have done better to help you succeed?”

After work, I would return to the loving home I grew up in and spend the night watching a baseball game or movie with my family. I didn’t have to worry about meals, rent, utilities or eviction. Heck, my biggest concerns on any given day was whether a project would force me to stay an extra 30 minutes, whether the AC at the office would be on too strong or whether a blister on my foot would keep me from playing basketball that night.

Before bed, I would lie awake visualizing my future, planning for tomorrow. Once asleep, I could dream big dreams of what the future held in store. Perhaps the best part, though, was that my dreams, visions and goals didn’t evaporate at the sound of the alarm clock, but rather drifted to the tips of my fingers, just within reach of me making them a reality.

But what would happen if I instead woke up 10 miles to the east in one of LIFT’s members’ beds? When “Member Me” walked to work, would I see monuments to our country’s greatness, or would I simply see edifices built on the backs of slaves? Would I have the mental bandwidth to read a great work of literature, or would chronic scarcity inhibit my patience and cognitive functions?

When Member Me got to work, would I be asking myself if my work was “engaging?” Or, would I be more worried about messing up and being greeted not by requests for upwards feedback, but by a pink slip that meant food would be short for the rest of the summer? And if I had to stay an extra 30 minutes at work, what would become of my kid?

When Member Me got home from work, I might still return home to my loving family; but would I have time to spend with them, or would I be too busy running around navigating the maze that is social services or trying to figure out my credit score?

Would Member Me lie awake at night, not out of the luxury of planning my future, but because I was debating if I could afford a doctor’s visit or if I could afford to keep limping around work while risking infection? Once sleep did arrive, I know I would still dream big dreams, but would they be interrupted in the middle of the night by my kid crying because I had switched the AC off to make sure we had enough money for this month’s rent?

At the core of things, I don’t know if Member Me and me are all too different. Just as my life is replete with love for and from my family and dreams of my future, so too is Member Me full of love and dreams. Perhaps, the only difference between the two of us is that one of us has been handed the tools and resources to actualize those dreams uninterrupted. What then, if we had the audacity to grant Member Me the tools and resources to flourish?

Member Me would probably have a really good summer too.

This blog post was written by Theo Lebryk, a student at Harvard and a summer 2017 intern at LIFT.