Lessons from a Summer at WATER

by Melody Stanford, intern, summer 2014

My internship at WATER over the summer provided a unique opportunity to grow in ways I could not have expected. I relished the chance to learn directly from Mary and Diann’s brilliance. More particularly, I was able to absorb a special set of soft skills that this groundbreaking team has honed over the years.

A couple of months after completing the program, I am only now unpacking the significance of these experiences.

As I came into my first day at the office, I thought I knew what it meant to connect and communicate in a professional setting. I didn’t realize there was so much to learn.

I learned what it means to be a colleague, and treat others as colleagues. I learned that radical hospitality means dropping everything when someone walks in the door, giving them my full attention, and anticipating a broadening collaboration.

I learned that checking in with people personally and holistically is part of a healthy organization. I learned to communicate speedily, consistently, and warmly. “You can never thank people enough,” as Mary says. We practiced connecting with artfulness and sincerity.

I learned how play, and fun, can be an integral part of intensely hard work – indeed, that the work itself should be fun, …or go do something else!

I learned to think in terms of hybridity – finding unusual solutions, and giving myself permission to forge new paths with confidence. I learned to be a little more fearless, and a little less apologetic.

I learned to question starry eyes and blind spots toward icons of all kinds. Instead, I was able to see on a fundamental level how valuing the person can occur simultaneously with weighing all assumptions and ideas.

I learned how to create relationships of exchange and mutuality – building consistent tidal patterns of giving and taking, and that this constructive approach is key to sustaining working relationships in the academic/activist worlds, and beyond.

These lessons can only be learned in praxis and community. I am so thankful for the chance to rehearse outlandish Be-ing with my colleagues and friends, and I anticipate this training will benefit me for many years to come.

Thank you, Mary and Diann, for an unforgettable summer in the WATER office.


Melody Stanford is a current MDiv student at Boston University with an interest in postcolonial feminist theology and spiritual-collaborative activism. She graduated from Wheaton College (IL) in 2007 with a dual degree in business/economics and Bible/theology. She worked in business and marketing for several years, developing a freelance graphic design business. Concurrent to her graduate studies today, she works with non-profits on a wide range of consulting and branding projects. She was recently invited by the Mission Institute at Episcopal Divinity School to teach a series of workshops on creating effective websites for churches.