“I began my position at Justine PETEREN three months before Coronavirus hit St. Louis, forcing nonprofits (including our own) to close and pursue working remotely. My home office has some perks: Slippers are an acceptable form of professional footwear, and the commute is a breeze. However, as cozy as my home office tries to be, it can never compare to what I have now begun to view as the brick and mortar oasis that is the JP office. I dream of the donuts coworkers bring in, the salads our CEO makes for us, the birthday cakes we share, and the holiday potluck meals we line up for, buffet style.
When I am not reminiscing on the plethora of snacks I used to indulge in, I think about the coworkers I sorely miss (perhaps even more than the donuts).During the days that feel a little more solitary (and frankly, weird), I look around my apartment at my myriad of houseplants (who I jokingly refer to as my new coworkers) and think about how some of them remind me of my colleagues. I have a pink and green plant that reminds me of one of our dedicated housing counselors and her inability to leave a problem unsolved (she quite literally saved this plant from dying and instructed me on how to properly water it – it’s flourishing now). I have two tiny cacti that remind me of my two office mates who have been nothing but steadfast and supportive as I have transitioned into my new role. I have a small plant that is just starting to grow, reminding me of our incredibly talented interns who are just beginning their professional careers. However, the plant that reminds me the most of my JP family is this funky looking, enormous aloe plant. It sits on my windowsill in a pot that is dramatically too small for it. I have overwatered and under watered this plant, forgotten about it, and even abandoned it only to find that it had continued growing. It never ceases to persist and thrive, even when it is dehydrated and cramped.
My time alone has made me shockingly sentimental, and I can’t help but think that this is a perfect metaphor for my colleagues. Our global environment has become ever so unpredictable. Resources are scarce, and I think we all, in some way or another, are feeling dehydrated, cramped, and yes, even lonely. And yet, like my aloe, my colleagues have refused to wither, slow down, or relinquish their commitment to our clients, our community, or our mission. Even on the hard days where I feel like my prickly pear cactus that has gone all wrinkly and folded over in glum defeat (also accepting advice on how to revive this one) I remind myself that I’m actually a part of an aloe plant that, against all odds, is surviving in an uncertain and challenging climate.
When I accepted my positon, I was most excited to join the JP family for two reasons: our mission, and just simply to join this community of dedicated, passionate professionals. The commitment my colleagues continue to bring to our clients and to the quality of our services and products as we all navigate the strange and often perplexing path to remote work has been – for me – nothing short of inspiring. When asked what I do at JP, it’s easy to say that I manage a grants portfolio. However, what I really do is communicate with our funders daily JP’s mission, and how the work and dedication of my colleagues is advancing that mission. I’m immensely grateful and proud to be the messenger for who JP is and for the opportunity to highlight the people whose work and commitment tirelessly manifests our values into practice. And I love that I can do this anywhere (from my JP office or my kitchen table), so I won’t let the opportunity pass now: Justine PETERSEN’s mission has always been to build assets and change lives, no matter the situation, however unpredictable, and no matter if we are all apart, because like my aloe plant with the too small pot, it isn’t our office that makes our work what it is, but our continued commitment to growing, even when we aren’t sure when we will get watered next.
I look forward to returning to the office (and all of its snacks) someday, but until then, I’ll continue to find hope in my work and the integrity of our mission (and inspiration from my houseplants).”