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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stepping Out by Faith

Do you ever feel nervous stepping on a sidewalk grate? Do you ever imagine the grating giving way under your weight? I have had those thoughts and feelings before, but as you can see in the photo above (yes, that's my foot) I've learned to walk on them anyways. The trick is stepping out by faith believing you will make it across safely before you put your foot on the grate.

This summer I did my communication studies internship and I have promised to share my experiences with you. Before I do that, I want to begin with the story of how my internship came to be arranged. As you will see, it required me to step out by faith.

A year ago in the spring, I decided I wanted to do an internship as my capstone experience. My other options were writing a thesis or completing a project, but an internship is the recommended option for students like me who wish to make a career change. Because my dream is to work for a company or organization that provides services for people with hearing loss, I decided to look for an internship with one of them. But where would I find such a business or nonprofit? I felt I needed a place where I could talk to several vendors face to face and present my qualifications rather than sending out unsolicited emails. My university offered career fairs, but I didn't think that was the answer. Instead, I brought to mind the Expo Hall at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) convention. Once I thought of that solution, I began making my plans to go to Austin, Texas.

I went there all on my own. Although I have friends with hearing loss and connections in the online community, I did not know anyone else who was going to that event. I decided not to let that stop me. I studied the convention program book's list of vendors and started choosing my targets. It was not until two weeks before I left that the idea occurred to me that perhaps HLAA itself could use a volunteer intern.

My story is going to get really good starting here. I arrived at the Austin airport and got onto the shuttle van that would take me to my hotel. It seemed as though all of us who got on had hearing loss  and were going to the convention. A man sat next to me on the van, turned to me and said, "You look familiar." I was surprised because I did not recognize him at all. I said quietly, "I write a blog called Speak Up Librarian, perhaps you came across it online." "Yes, that's it." We introduced ourselves. The man turned out to be Richard Einhorn, the convention's keynote speaker. It was a thrill for me to be recognized from my blog, but I was embarrassed (and still am) that I did not know who he was. My only explanation is that I was very focused on obtaining an internship from the vendor list and had not looked through the convention program's other sections closely. Richard was gracious about it. He asked me what I had been writing about lately and we chatted on the ride. Then, I got up my courage to tell him why I was in Austin. To my surprise, Richard told me he was a board member of HLAA. He offered to introduce me to Anna Gilmore Hall, the Executive Director. I was thrilled!

But my quest for an internship was not fulfilled that easily. As it turned out, I went up to Richard after his keynote address and he was standing with Anna, but they needed to have their photos taken and were led away. An introduction could not be arranged at that time. Of course, I understood and was sure another opportunity would present itself. Meanwhile, I visited the Expo Hall and gave my resume to a few companies and organizations. None showed much interest in my offer to do a volunteer internship for them.

The next morning, after having the complimentary breakfast in the lobby, I returned to my hotel room instead of heading over to the convention. I felt a strong desire to read my Bible and pray over my situation. I reviewed the story of Abraham's servant in Genesis 24 and prayed to be as successful in my mission as he was. When I finished, I exited the front door of the hotel just in time to see the shuttle van for the convention hotel leaving the parking lot. Well! I was a little miffed at the delay and wondering why God would let this happen when I had been turning to Him for guidance and direction.

Oh ye of little faith, I would tell myself now. But at the time, I did not know how this was going to work out for the best. What happened next was that I sat down on a bench in front of the hotel prepared to wait for the shuttle van to return and then go over on its next trip. A few minutes later a well-dressed couple came out of the hotel entrance. I noticed they were wearing the same red lanyards with convention name tags that I was. They spotted that too and kindly asked if they could give me a ride over to the convention. Even though I did not know them, I felt comfortable accepting their offer. When we walked over to their car in the parking lot, the woman got into the driver's seat, her husband got into the front passenger seat and I sat in the back. As the woman backed the car out of the parking space, her husband turned around towards me and introduced himself as Jim Saunders, an HLAA board member. I could not believe it, but did not miss a beat as I said, "I'm really glad to meet you" handing him a copy of my resume and explaining why I had come to Austin. He promised to take it directly to Anna.

Jim must have been as good as his word based on what happened next. That morning there was a symposium session and I got up before it was over to use the ladies' room. Can you guess who was standing just ahead of me in line? Anna Gilmore Hall. I smiled at her and said, "My name is Sarah and I've been trying to meet you." She told me that she had been given my resume. She may also have said that Richard had mentioned me to her, but I can't recall that for sure. We agreed to get in touch during the convention.

As busy as she was, she gave me almost a half hour to talk in her hotel room about my resume and what I could do for HLAA. She suggested several different projects, all of which sounded interesting to me. By the end of our time together, she agreed to take me on as an intern. Woo-hoo, mission accomplished! God answered my prayers. A few times over the remainder of the convention Anna tried to connect me with Barbara Kelley, the Deputy Executive Director and Editor of Hearing Loss Magazine, but it never worked out. That would have to wait until my internship a year later.

In my next post, I'll share how other logistics for my internship worked out.

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