When Shelley and I first became interns with the Resource Center for Women in Ministry in the South, Homegrown was one of the main events of the semester that we eagerly anticipated. Over the course of our first few weeks of spending time in the Resource Center, we heard bits and pieces about the festival: its history, its purpose, its people. We found ourselves putting up posters, drafting emails, even putting name tags in alphabetical order, all in preparation for an event we were anxious to be a small part of.
Even so, Homegrown snuck up on me. It came not only during a busy week, with a dear friend’s birthday, a paper or two, and a long drive coming just after the festival ended on Friday, but also during a season that has been both busy and stressful. 2019 has been a difficult year; my grandmother passed away just as the semester began, and all summer I had been struggling with coming to terms with both mental and physical limitations.
Spending two days a week in the sunny Resource Center had already given me a firmer sense of groundedness as the school year began. But when I arrived at Homegrown, mentally stuck in both the past weeks and months of stress and the obligations I could see looming on the horizon, I wasn’t expecting to be as present, engaged, and joyful as I was.
I don’t think I knew it, but what I needed was some delicious soup and rich chocolate cake, some small talk that went from small to big in a heartbeat, some hugs and smiles from perfect strangers, some laughter out of nowhere, and the sound of women’s voices lifted up in song.
Before Thursday was over, I started getting a warm feeling, in between my rib cages, where my body tends to tell me whether something is right or wrong. The place that so often this year had felt like a hard “no,” had ached and hurt, started to feel like a soft “yes:” an urge to savor the moment, a response to something my body recognized as thoroughly good.
I realized during the last gathering of the festival, high on this new “yes” feeling, that I was the youngest in this room of women. I looked around this wide circle and mentally confirmed–all of the other students in the room were in Divinity school, and most people weren’t students at all. Each of these women has made it through the milestone of graduation that I’m anticipating in May. Each of them has followed the “yes” in their souls to this moment.
Maybe what my soul had been saying “yes” to all day had been the feeling of being surrounded by people who had already been at the place where I was: overwhelmed, feet far off of the firm, solid ground and anxiously searching for where to go next. And maybe it wasn’t just the sound of women’s voices that comforted me, but it was the sound of women’s voices that sounded like what mine might sound like one day, that have room for me to join them even now, that believe that I am strong enough to become whatever God intends me to be because they learned that they were strong enough for such a calling, too.
I left the festival so much steadier than when I arrived, so much more sure that though groundedness and “yes” are still difficult to find at the beginning of my senior year of college, that I have people on my team, all of us anticipating a future with hope.
Liddy Grantland is a senior at Duke studying English and African American Studies. She is thrilled to be an intern at the Resource Center this semester.