Wednesday, September 20, 2006

finding my niche, bleeding my heart out

When I was a kid, my dad once told me I had a big heart because I was friends with a girl with cerebral palsy. Then one day we were playing and I pushed her wheelchair too fast and she fell out. She didn't want to be my friend anymore after that.

As I grew older, "big heart" turned into "bleeding heart" and I began to realize a lot of people perceived my concern for others as a result of naivete. If it was, so be it. Not my problem.

I came to college, and joined AmeriCorps, and learned that I didn't just have to care, I could act. I ran for office in a campus organization, and was shocked to discover that I could lead. The combination was potent.

I don't talk about this aspect of my life often in my blog, because it just doesn't seem relevant, but I'm involved almost excessively. Don't get me wrong, I know how to prioritize, but it seems there are just so many things I can do. I work for a nonprofit, and although I'm hesitant to share with you exactly what I do there, suffice it to say I'm involved in suicide intervention. Additionally, I just took on a (volunteer=unpaid) position as the Executive Director of a brand spankin' new outreach program of STANDUP FOR KIDS. The blood, sweat, and tears I can see looming in the immediate future in order to get this program off the ground are almost overwhelming. I'm applying to MSW (social work) programs this semester in the hopes of someday being a counselor for at-risk or troubled youth, and I don't have the money to pay for it. I'm hoping the gods of assistantships will smile upon me and make it possible. I care about what I do, I love what I do, and I can't imagine doing anything with my life outside of helping others.

There are a lot of people, particularly in my extended family, who don't really "get" my bleeding heart thing (or maybe it's my politics, but I think they're one and the same). They rarely comment, but I sense that they think I'm idealistic and foolish. But through my work in the nonprofit industry, I have found so many competent, intelligent, and hilarious people who share my passion for helping others, for seeing both the big picture and the small tasks, for making a difference. Sometimes I think about it, and I'm just so happy to be where I am. It's after 1 a.m. on a school night, and I've been up printing, emailing, and brainstorming for my newest project. I've got homework to do in the morning and class at 9:30, but I couldn't be happier. I feel like I've found a field I could work in forever and have it never feel like work, and that's something some people spend their whole lives looking for. If I were a religious gal, I'd consider myself blessed.

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


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