Forewarning I’m going full horse girl on this blog post, but bear with me and I promise you’ll hear about Scotland too!
Since the moment I mentioned that I rode horses, every Church of Scotland member in Dundee was on a mission to find me a place to ride. They eventually succeeded, but we’ll get to that later. In the process of getting to know me, talking about horses was inevitable, but it quickly made me realize how long it had been since I had ridden. Between finishing up with the Furman team and a busy summer of travels, I had gone over two months without riding, probably the longest amount of time since I started at the ripe age of six. Needless to say, I was itching to get back in the saddle, but the time spent away from horses gave me a chance to reflect on what riding has meant to me.
Riding has always been a constant in my life, so much so that I might take for granted the impact that it has had. I barely remember learning to ride, it’s just a skill that exists largely on autopilot, permanently etched in my muscle memory. Riding is not just something I like to do, it is a part of who I am and has seamlessly woven itself into countless aspects of my personality. First and foremost, riding has given me a quiet confidence that has guided me through both challenges and achievements. In the face of criticism or self-doubt there was always the knowledge that I had the courage and conviction to show a thousand-pound animal who’s boss. It wasn’t a matter of fearlessness, but an ability to move past the obstacle of fear to accomplish a goal. Importantly though, this courage isn’t flashy or controlling; it is built on trust and cooperation with your horse. Riding has taught me to be sure of myself, but also to listen to others and lead through mutual respect, relationship-building, and encouragement.
Knowing how much riding has given me, I can see the foundation it has provided for me to be successful in my work here in Dundee. Service work requires much more listening than it does talking. Whether I’m handing out food to community members in need at our weekly food larder, planning youth group activities for kids in the community, or mentoring my primary school student, my role is not to fix problems, but to address needs as those I serve articulate them to me. A larder visitor might come for food, but they might additionally come to have a positive adult conversation after a long week of caring for a large family. A youth group kid might come for a fun night of games, but they also might need a listening ear about a problem at school. It’s not my job to tell them what they need, but to meet them where they are and work with them to get to where they want to be.
Riding has taught me to listen first and act second, but the action is just as important. As I continue to serve this year, I hope that I can do both and continue to learn what it means to serve. I am further motivated to give back after already receiving so much from this community. I mentioned in my previous blog post how warmly my church members had welcomed me, but I have been equally welcomed by those I have served. The visitors at the larder ask me each week how I’m coping with the weather and have given me tips on how to research my Scottish heritage. The kids at youth group quiz me about what the US is like and love sharing their own pieces of Scottish wisdom and trivia. And a true testament to the love I’ve been shown was the speed and fervor at which my new community has found me a horse to ride. Luna, is a very sweet, inexperienced, and slightly overweight pony who would much rather be roaming the Scottish hills than trotting around a ring, but I am confident that we will grow together this year through the patience and perseverance a lifetime of riding has taught me – much in the same way I hope to grow with my community in Dundee this year, learning from each other and putting joy, love, and care into the area and people that we serve.
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