I had participated in the 30 Hour Famine a couple years prior to my senior year, but it was my senior year that we watched a video showing human aid workers delivering needed food, water, and medical supplies to those in desperate need. I watched that video, and something clicked. At that moment, spending a life working to alleviate the poverty of those in need, a life working to change the systems that put people in those situations, seemed the most fulfilling and meaningful life.
I tried to put that mentality to work in college, volunteering in a variety of capacities until my sophomore year I was able to join a coalition of 9 Yamhill County churches that yearly drive down to the Tijuana area of Mexico to build homes with Amor Ministries. I learned a lot about myself on that trip—I had the unique opportunity to join with 70 people I barely knew, and could redefine and reinvent myself. I worked so hard on that trip, and tried so hard to keep a positive attitude, that it became reality. More importantly, I saw poverty face to face for the first time, the kind of poverty that is around every corner in the U.S., but is pushed out of sight and out of mind by our culture.
I think when one sees that poverty, confronts that poverty face to face, with real people and real stories, one simply cannot help but act. There is no other option. For me, it is both a moral obligation and a obligation of faith. One thing is certain though: my life cannot look the same as it did with the knowledge that there are people who are suffering, who are not given the same opportunities and resources as I was. It is now about justice.
Over the past year I have worked as a full-time volunteer through the Presbyterian Church USA. My horizons keep expanding, the world keeps growing bigger, the problems more complex. And my sense of justice, my internal demand for equality, only continues to expand. Perhaps it is a blessing, perhaps a curse. Regardless, it is my motivation.
Mother Theresa said, “You can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Despite my awareness of the magnitude and gravity of the problems that surround us, I am desperately trying to live in that belief. I cannot change things by myself, but I can never underestimate the power one person can have on another person's life.