Learning to Receive: Monica's Story

Learning to Receive: Monica's Story

Monica was a cross-cultural partner during our latest cohort of the women's Sister Circle program. She told her story at our Third Annual Celebration back in October, and we want to share it with you now. Monica's story shows how cross-cultural partnerships are about mutuality, and often CCPs feel they receive more than they give.

My name is Monica Webb, and I’m a member of the collective.

I wear a variety of hats on any given day––just like we all do––but most frequently I wear those of mom, wife, nurse, sister, and friend. I have always had a heart for those on the margins, and in each season of my life, this has looked unique.

When my family moved to Grand Rapids, and I started working at the children’s hospital, I took care of a patient whose family was resettled here with refugee status. This was my first encounter with anyone who had to leave their home and undertake the hard work of making a new life in the US. I engaged with the mother and learned about co-sponsorship. That led my family, along with our best friends and their kids, to co-sponsor a family. That experience revealed to us all the great things a resettlement agency gives an individual or family in that first 3-6 months after they land in our community. It also showed us the need for so much more than what an agency can offer long term.

Enter Treetops Collective, an organization dedicated to helping women and girls, and their families, flourish. I learned about the Sisters Circle program and realized for one hour a week, I could make a connection, and encourage a woman to put down solid lasting roots. I don’t know about you, but I waste way more than one hour a week. There was no looking back.

In the summer of 2018, I met my Cross-Cultural Partner, my sister. She exudes gratefulness and joy and she’s a go-getter! I could talk all day about my sister. But I want to share what the Sisters Circle experience has meant to me.

For those of you who know the Enneagram, I’m a type 2––The Helper. Helping is kind of my jam, you could say. But even so, it was easy to think that maybe this wasn’t my area of expertise, or someone with more specific training would be better suited.  But then, I took a second look at my gifts and realized as a functioning member of society, I could offer more than I realized. Speaking fluent English, driving, navigating phone calls, managing money, setting doctor appointments, are all things that come easily to me. Not to mention the enormous support network I have.

We all have more to offer than we realize, much of which we take for granted.  

When my sister and I started meeting, I attempted to teach her English, but mostly we just tried to talk, and hang out. Things would come up, we would work through them, and if I didn’t know how to help, I would find someone who did. I eventually connected her with ESL classes, and take her there weekly, and we get to spend an hour in the car together.

Regardless, I really feel like I haven’t given as much as I’ve received. Every time I show up at my sister’s house, I am greeted with a body slam hug, kiss, and affection from her and her sons. I feel like a celebrity! Entering her home, a waft of delicious Haitian food always fills my lungs, and my sister fills a plate or a to-go container for me and my family. The meals she fixes nourish us in the most simple way. We all need to eat, and each time she feeds us she is providing for us.

I struggled at first to accept her generosity. I would try to say we were good or weren’t hungry, but honestly, she didn’t quite understand––I think she didn’t recognize the English phrases I used and also didn’t understand why food wouldn’t be accepted. And in this way, my sister helped me to just receive.

And that’s what this is about––receiving. Relationships of mutuality. No one feels good about a lopsided friendship or relationship when one person takes too much or gives too much. My sister has taught me how to receive. This has been a game-changer in so many ways when I realize, we are all the same. We all have needs, and hopes and dreams. My sister might need a ride to English class, and I might not have dinner planned for my kids. We all are in need and we all want to help. We all dream and need a little nudge to get to our dreams.

In our year and a half together, we have walked together through a rough and tiring pregnancy, birth, and juggling two kids under the age of two. I have watched my sister grow exponentially.  She now works out of the home, cares for her two kids, has her driver’s permit, hasn’t given up on weekly ESL, and is working on her residence status.

She has been at my family’s birthday parties, dinners, soccer games, and we have all worshipped at the Haitian church together.

My sister is constantly pouring out into my family and I could never understate how much I have been given through my relationship with her in this Sisters Circle partnership.

Learn more about what's involved in being a Cross-Cultural Partner and apply to volunteer!