Tuesday, May 23, 2006

did I ever mention that I was in AmeriCorps?

What is AmeriCorps, you may ask? They explain it all here.

Anyway, the experience pretty much changed my life, in several ways. For one, the concept of service became so ingrained in my soul that I doubt I'll ever be the same. I had always wanted to go into a helping profession (when I was younger it was teaching, now it's social work), but my eleven months as a corps member changed my outlook. Now I see service as more of a way of living, rather than an activity to engage in. To live your life in a manner which lightens the burden of others is to do your part for the betterment of mankind. You must be the change you wish to see in the world--that's not going above and beyond, that's just pulling your own weight.

Another thing about my experience--for the first time in my life, I was an ethnic minority. I grew up in a town that was almost painfully homogeneous, crediting most of it's growth to the phenomenon of white flight from New Orleans. Everyone there works in New Orleans, but none of them want to live in the city, so they move across the lake. In my AmeriCorps experience, I experienced for the first time how it feels for someone to see your skin color before they see your face or hear your name. For the first time in my life, I was "white" before I was "Charlotte," and it was eye opening. I was immersed in black culture for eleven months, and gained a lot of perspective on plurality. My culture is not the only one worth knowing about, and my experience in life is by far not the only one worth consideration.

I could go on forever, but in short, AmeriCorps affected me deeply. It changed me forever, challenging who I thought I was and where I thought I came from. It forced me to give deeply of myself, to question my circumstances, and to be the change I wish to see in the world.

To quote Gloria Anzaldua, “In attempting to work out a synthesis, the self has added a third element which is greater than the sum of its severed parts." That experience took me apart, changed me around, and put me back together again, so that I will never be the same. I wrote a paper about it for a literary theory class, if any of you are into that kind of thing. It's available here.

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.
- Ghandi

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