How Has Service Transformed Your Life Or Your Community?

Jul 11, 2012

Diana NguyenHow has service transformed your life or your community? How have others been a positive impact on you?

Today’s guest post is written by Diana Nguyen, a summer intern at generationOn. Diana is a native of California, a college student in Boston and an urban city lover.

The issue of homelessness always puzzled me. I am the sheltered girl who drives past staring through the safety of her car window. I am the schoolgirl who peeks from the corner of her glance as she walks through the iron gates of a prestigious institution. I am the girl who has asked the questions everyone has asked, “Where do the homeless go every night? How did this happen, especially to our war veterans?”

My curiosity is restricted by my caution. It won’t kill me, but it will make me stretch my neck as my eyes trace down the long line leading to the open church doors. I give my curiosity the responsibility to free my mind from the misconceptions about the homeless. People give my caution the responsibility to keep me “safe.”

I want to approach them, ask them the questions they can answer, erase the line between us and them. My looks, misunderstood as condescending, is a palm face up, a bridge between what seems to be two separate worlds.

There have been a handful of times I’ve shared more than a stare. I participated in service projects that provided homeless people food. We donated untouched food from celebratory banquets. I wish I could say something transformative happened afterwards, but it feels silly. It feels silly when I think how afterwards I went home while the stereotypes and their living condition remained the same. I would feel so full of myself if I said I made an impact. I did and I didn’t.

The regular community members are the transformers. They know the names of the homeless, talk to them and change the neighborhood attitudes toward them. These community members don’t receive a ribbon for their service, they don’t even acknowledge the transformation they cause, but their service is invaluable. As an onlooker, these people have transformed me. I aspire to be someone who treats everyone equally, is modest and does so effortlessly. Collectively, these community members have transformed their communities to care about others, be concerned with more pressing issues and ignore the vanity of the city. They contribute to an atmosphere that humbles any tourist or passerby. I need to feel comfortable with the issue of homelessness, understand that homelessness does not only affect war veterans, but also the mentally unstable and youth.

I thank these community members for encouraging me and humbling me. I am tired of walking past and trying to silence my curiosity.