Heavy LIFTing: Lessons I Learned at LIFT

By LIFT on August 22, 2018

Categories: First Person Perspective, Our Work, Real Stories

It’s always rewarding to spend the summer back home with my family, relaxing and hanging out with my loved ones. But in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking about the next school year and how I can prepare for it. Specifically, as a student athlete, I know that when I step on the court for a new season of competition, I need to be ready. Not just as ready as I was last season, but more ready than I’ve ever been: stronger, faster, and more skilled. To make sure my teammates and I are that ready, our strength and conditioning trainer requires that we spend a lot of time weight-lifting.

This summer I was blessed to have a little bit of everything: time with my friends and family, a gym membership to make sure I’m on top of my game, and a life-changing internship. Looking back over the weeks I’ve spent in the weight room and in the office, so many of the lessons I’ve learned about ending the cycle of inter-generational poverty are mirrored in the ways I prepare for the basketball season. So as my time at LIFT comes to an end, I’d like to offer the following lessons that have shaped my development over the past weeks and that have helped me LIFT this summer, in more ways than one!

  1. Focus on Form

From your grip and stance, to your movement and posture, effective weight-lifting relies on good form. Exercising without it can lead to poor results, damaged equipment, or injuries. But focusing on it can allow you to lift heavier weights and develop strength faster. It’s not the only thing you need going into a gym, but it is one of the most important.

In my time at LIFT, I’ve learned so much about the complexity of poverty and how the situations of those in low-income households are so diverse. Consequently, form is also incredibly important when it comes to addressing these issues that affect more than 40 million people in the United States. Just as you can’t bench press the same way that you deadlift, the unique needs of individual low-income families requires an approach tailored to their circumstances and personal strengths. LIFT invests time and effort to ensure the structure of its programming is best suited to its mission. Our coaches don’t simply hand out pamphlets; they engage with parent members to develop and reach goals that recognize all of the responsibilities parents and caregivers are juggling. Similarly, LIFT doesn’t underestimate the inequities of poverty that disproportionately affect women and people of color; it incorporates equity and inclusion into its service to a diverse membership, and also into the values of the staff and leadership. If LIFT has taught me anything this summer, it is that good intentions are not enough to create change; forming a clear, effective strategy to realize your vision is critical.

  1. Consistency is Key

A second part of the weight-lifting process is repetition. Two reps with light weight won’t easily produce results; neither will one workout every other month. Regardless of your strength or fitness goals, it is crucial to establish a schedule, stick to it, and constantly push yourself to improve.

This emphasis on consistency was most evident for me in the stories of LIFT’s members. This July I heard the story of Lacricha Warren, a LIFT-DC member who was empowered to develop consistency in her life. One of Lacricha’s primary goals was to establish healthy saving habits that would allow her and her husband to one day purchase a house. With the help of her LIFT coach, she decided to start with something small: Lacricha began saving just $5 a week. Although this may not sound like much, Lacricha appreciated the power of building a routine, and in 6 months the LIFT’s SaverLife Program will match up to $60 of her savings.

LIFT doesn’t just preach consistency, we practice it. Through yearly goals, constant progress checks, and consistent development of our programming, LIFT is always working not just to maintain positive results, but also to expand its impact. For me, LIFT’s example affirms that my commitment to helping others doesn’t stop with the end of this internship. Fighting inter-generational poverty is a process that requires long-term commitment and dedication.

  1. Always Have a Spotter

The last aspect of weight-lifting, but by no means the least impactful, is the presence of a spotter. When you are pushing yourself the most and operating at your limits, the spotter is the final key to success. A spotter checks your form to make sure your back doesn’t bend and your grip doesn’t falter. The spotter catches you when you fall and adds their strength to the task if it’s ever too much.  Most importantly, the spotter encourages you, inspiring you to try one more rep, add a few more pounds, and come back for another day.

Of all the things that LIFT does, I believe its most important role is being a spotter for its members. The Corporation for Enterprise Development estimates that 43% of American families are one disaster away from the poverty line. With so little room for life’s accidents or mishaps, the support LIFT provides is instrumental. LIFT coaches offer suggestions when a member wants a better strategy for how they uplift their own families. They offer a helping hand to members when an emergency occurs or when it feels like the burden is too great. Most importantly, our coaches offer encouragement, reminding families that they can build a better future for their families. For the most important lift, the lifting of a family, LIFT has their backs.

I am so grateful for the time I’ve had at LIFT and for everything I’ve learned this summer. But I’m also forever grateful for the members who’ve been spotters for myself and other LIFTers as well. Their commitment to supporting their families reminds me to form my life around what matters. Their perseverance models the determination I hope to exhibit in my life. Their stories inspire us all to keep fighting poverty because it is so worth it. The crisis of poverty in the United States weighs heavily on all of us, but most especially on those who have the least resources to bear this burden. Still, we all have the capacity, through whatever resources we possess, to lend a hand and help make this load just a little bit lighter.

This blog post was written by Sydney Jordan, a 2018 summer intern at LIFT’s national office.