Healing Through Humanity
This trip allowed me to heal. Throughout the weeks I was there, I was able to see the graciousness of humanity’s hearts. I remembered that helping others matters. I had the opportunity to work side-by-side with the family we were helping, supporting, loving.
Remembering some of my Bulgarian language skills, I was able to converse with the family and they explained to me what this meant to them and their family. We were calming their anxious hearts by not having to worry about a safe home for their two young boys. They were living with many other people and if I understood correctly, in the kitchen of another’s home. Now their children have the opportunity to grow up being kids and able to focus on school and family. They will finally have a place to call home.
I know I have taken for granted the fact that I have a place to call home, a place to be myself, a place to restart, rest, and make memories. I was reminded that all acts of care in this world are worth something. If we are capable to help, we must help. I was reminded on this trip by a fellow First National employee that we can’t all give in the same way. We must give in the ways we are capable of. If you cannot give money, give with your hands, give with your time. Give and help in any way that you can. Another First National Bank Member reminded me that the simplest conversations can change whole person’s life, self-worth, and thoughts.
Humanitarian work to me isn’t always the most obvious things we do. It can be simple acts of kindness, a gesture of care, speaking for those without a voice, teaching those to speak for themselves, empowering and encouraging those around us, or role modeling the behavior you wish others to follow. We must all learn we are in this together, we are all part of the same human family. We are all part of one big community and we must take care of each other.
There are many stories that arise when I think of the questions I have asked myself. I realized that I cannot prevent the world from pain, I alone cannot save it and I relish in the fact that there are many others out there who are changing the world. It will not take one person, it will take us working together in our communities and every opportunity matters.
One story comes to mind when I think of seeds growing. When I first started at the Social Support Center, my coworkers and I struggled on where to start. They decided they wanted to work with the mainstream kids in the schools. I of course agreed, but felt it equally important to work with the Roma population and the orphanage youth. They needed to be considered, it needed to matter.
At first I couldn’t understand their strong hesitation, for they made it clear that those populations were lazy and wouldn’t want to participate. They felt the orphan youth and Roma populations weren’t as smart because they couldn’t read or write. They felt they were disruptive and corrupt, which wasn’t necessarily incorrect for most. My coworkers weren’t bad people, this idea was new to them. What I realized is that I had to plant those seeds before they could grow. They needed someone to show them that it mattered, that someone could care. I myself started to work with the Roma population and the children in the orphanage. At first these populations weren’t allowed in the Social Support Center.
I built relationships with these groups and began to figure out what their needs were and what I was capable of providing. I started coming up with life skill activities and games. Once in a while, I would ask my coworkers if they would like to participate with me. They turned me down many times. My coworkers would start to ask how activities were going and if they were learning or if they cared. To their disbelief, I said yes. I would encourage them to see for themselves and participate with us.
After some time, the orphan youth were then allowed into the Center. Of course, it didn’t start out the best. The children came in and the staff would find a reason to validate the way they felt and at times, the youth would prove it to them. In fairness, both parties needed to plant seeds of trust before a relationship could grow. I was the only one who would work with them, and after some time, one by one my coworkers started to want to work with them, too.
Since I had built a relationship with the youth, I could correct their behavior when they acted out. There were times the youth needed to leave the Center and start fresh another day. After more time, I created behavioral guidelines for being able to participate in our activities, which would hold the youth accountable for their actions. At first they hesitated, but overall they loved being at the Center and loved participating in all the activities and therefore followed the guidelines.
Still with much hesitation, I now had a relationship with my coworkers where I could be bolder. I remember having more honest and stern conversations with them about working more closely with the Roma population. I told them that if you want the Roma population to be part of your culture, you must invite them in. If you want them to learn to read and write, why not teach them?
After more time, my coworkers began to help me create for and teach the orphan youth (which also housed many of the Roma population) and built very respectful and close relationships with them. Toward the end of my service, I saw the seeds in full bloom. Without me saying anything, my coworkers developed a plan for the youth and were excited to share it with me. They decided to let the community Roma population into the Center and that they wanted to work in the Roma schools with them as well.
At first, not many Roma youth and their parents wanted to come to the Center. My coworkers were frustrated, but came up with another plan on their own. They told me they were going to walk through the Roma neighborhoods and knock door to door to sign the youth up for activities we would provide. They wanted to introduce themselves and make it known that they cared.
I wish I would have captured this moment with a camera. My coworkers and I walked to the entrance of a Roma neighborhood and stopped. There were four of them. They were so nervous and decided to hold hands. They asked me if I wanted to hold their hands and I said no. I said I will follow you from behind because you deserve to lead the way. I watched in utter amazement. My coworkers entered a world they at first believed to be bad.
I watched them knock on many doors and had many Roma families sign up. They were also all invited to a meeting about the activities we would like to provide. When the meeting came, the room was so full with parents and youth, you were elbow to elbow with them.
They didn’t need me to lead anymore. They started doing activities and sessions, for life skills on their own. We divided our time between many different schools, sessions at the Center, and in the orphanage.
A very wise First National Bank member told me, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” -Nelson Mandela
This concludes part 3 of my three-part blog series, “Cemented.” Thanks for reading!