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Editor’s note: DC Service Corps volunteer Erin Frances Reinhart leads peace workshops at organizations throughout the DC area with her ministry site, Little Friends for Peace. While leading a workshop on trust at the Father McKenna Center, Erin Frances was challenged to trust herself, others, and God more deeply.

Little Friends for Peace is an organization that works to combat violence through peace education. A central tenant of Little Friends for Peace is that to interact peacefully with others and the larger community, a person must first practice internal peace. We view inner peace as having balanced physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social wellness. Therefore, the primary mission of Little Friends for Peace is to create a space where individuals can share and process with others what is happening in their lives. Moreover, we also teach tools that enrich social-emotional well-being.

With Little Friends for Peace, every encounter, whether with a new partner, a staff member, a volunteer, a student, or an adult, begins with a check-in. During the check-in process, each person shares what is bringing them peace and what is disrupting their peace. You are asked to actively listen without interruption or judgment when you are not speaking. This check-in process is unique to Little Friends for Peace and is one of my favorite aspects of the organization. It allows me to get to know and relate to others in a much more intentional way. It allows me to continually be present to individuals, accompany others on their journey, and experience how Christ is working in their lives.

One site that Little Friends for Peace provides programming for is the Father McKenna Center, an organizations that provides services for men experiencing homelessness and facing food insecurity. Every Tuesday morning, we facilitate a two-hour small group session for approximately twelve men at the Center. We begin with a check-in to understand how everyone is entering the session. We then discuss tools such as having a balanced wellness wheel, connecting with others, or mindfulness. Finally, as a group, we strategize how the tools can be practiced in our lives.

I was asked to lead the small group session at the Father McKenna Center alone for the first time a few weeks ago. The session topic was trust, which allowed me to explore my relationship with trust. I visualize trust as a series of concentric rings where I am at the center, and others are on the rings surrounding me. First and foremost, I recognize the need to trust myself. If I am unable to trust myself, I cannot trust others. With individuals on rings closer to myself, I share a greater level of trust and am more willing to share at a deeper level. However, with those on rings that are further away, I share less trust and enforce greater boundaries. Finally, every experience is an opportunity to build or break trust, so people constantly move from one ring to another.

Leading the small group session at the Father McKenna Center challenged me to practice trust in a genuine way. I became increasingly anxious about the upcoming session as I approached the center. I reaffirmed my trust in myself by remembering that I had prepared to the best of my ability and had the skills to facilitate this discussion. I silently prayed to Mary, trusting that she would help calm my nerves; provide me with strength, courage, and protection; and guide the discussion. I trusted that the other Little Friends for Peace team members would help me throughout the session. Finally, I had to trust in the relationship I had started to form with the men at the Father McKenna Center. I trusted that the men would be willing to be vulnerable and participate in the discussion.

I challenge you to spend some time reflecting on your relationship with trust.

Question for reflection: How do you view trust? Who are those people in your life who reside in your inner circle? Is there anyone with whom you would like to foster greater trust?

Erin Frances is a native of Courtland, Minnesota. She graduated from Saint Mary’s College in Indiana with a BS in Chemistry and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire with a Ph.D. in Chemistry. Erin Frances is excited to join the DC Service Corps as a program associate with Little Friends for Peace. There, she will be serving to counter violence and contribute to a worldwide culture of peace by sharing skills to prevent, resolve, and transform conflict with individuals, families, teams, and communities. She is looking forward to deepening her faith and living out a ministry of presence with those she encounters.