Friday, July 10, 2015

By:  Melissa Tomlinson, NJ BAT and BATs Asst. General Manager
For 25 years of my life I lived within a family system of brothers and sisters that shared a particular interest in a type of music. The members of this family were always ones that I counted on to take care of one another while we toured the road: sharing, giving, and providing for one another. They became my own brothers and sisters even after the road trips became less frequent. 

The decision to attend my first NEA RA weighed heavily in my mind because the ultimate family road trip was also the same weekend. The culmination of 50 years on the road together for the family as a whole. Also the day we would finally say goodbye to the past. After a lot of self reflection, I decided that building toward the future was more important than trying to revisit the past. 

The week before I left, my heart grew heavy at the thought of all the people I was going to miss seeing. I was questioning my decision because those trips were the ones that I could count on to replenish my spirit and fill my soul. But I boarded the plane with determination to fulfill my role at RA.

Landing in Orlando airport, I was met right away by a BAT as soon as I got off the plane. We traveled to the Orlando BAT Cave and I could already begin to feel the parallelism of what I was missing and what I was experiencing. Meeting new people as my circle of friends grew, running errands, playing taxi driver, being taken care of, watched over, doing for others, leaning on others...These were all experiences that I had expected to miss. 

As our BAT work began to increase on the RA floor I noticed people around me jumping in to help me, making sure I ate, keeping an eye out for what I needed; people that I had in the past, only seen occasionally. Strangers helping strangers. At this, I began to see a glimpse of the heart of our union. A spark of what we could tap into and rebuild upon lit up in me. 

The understanding of our brothers and sisters as they struggle with issues, the assistance we could provide to support them, the development of our strength that is born through family and the action upon what we know is right in our hearts. All things we need to nourish as we come together to build our union strength to fight in the days ahead. The spirit that we need to radiate with as we enlarge our family to join with the families that our communities and parent organizations have built. 

I am forever grateful (spelled wrong on purpose!) for what the BAT caucus gave to me this week. I have found my family. 

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