Why Peace Corps?
An old friend of mine wrote me this message the other day:
Africa … really? Have you maybe thought about cleaning up a park in South Atlanta … Helping re-build homes in Tuscaloosa after the tornado … Maybe even working with inner city kids on after-school programs in cities like NYC or Chicago. I mean shit, I’m part of a non-profit organization and am the Atlanta Chapter’s secretary.
I know my opinion doesn’t mean anything, but do you really feel that going tens of thousands of miles away will make a better difference then here in the states? If you’re not going to cure cancer, then can’t you get your humanitarian dosage here at home?
At first I didn’t think anything of it. Just laughed because I get asked these kind of questions a lot by my family and friends. My response is always something along the lines of… ” Everyone here can be doing something to help them, not everyone can leave the country.”
Later that night Brett and I were watching the movie “Beyond Borders” and of course, any decent human being feels gut wrenched about it… You have this sudden surge of energy and feeling that you need to do something. It is natural to get angry and rage about how tragedies like this shouldn’t happen and you wonder why more isn’t being done to stop it. Then, you go to sleep. Then, you wake up… and suddenly you feel better – or have simply forgotten. You are content to go on with your jobs, friends, and lives doing nothing until you watch the next heart-tugging movie. Sound familiar?? Well it should, we all do this.
My response to the above mentioned friend came after I woke up the next morning. I had not forgotten what I saw on this movie or the countless other movies that are similar, nor have I forgotten the news casts and books I have read. I don’t know if this is because leaving the country to help is in a very near line of sight, or because I am growing up and the realness of these tragedies are making a permanent imprint. Either way I had been changed… because no longer was this question simple. Brett and I talked and wrote what we now believe. Mostly it is from Brett, a man with many convictions that he refuses to let go by the wayside. I admire him for this, and I trust that when I have seen what he has my heart, my life, will be forever changed.
This is the reality:
While there are countless problems in America there are also great non-profit and humanitarian groups on every corner doing their best to make a difference. The United States has more resources for struggling citizens than any country in the world does (with maybe Europe as the exception). Between City Year, AmeriCorps, Brothers and Sisters… Non-profits, Hospitals, Fire stations, Police Stations… And churches on pretty much every corner – People here have options when they are hurting. They can take advantage of those if they so choose, or they don’t have to. The point is – They have them available to help.
However, throughout the rest of the world there are thousands of children being brain-washed into war and hatred and hundreds of thousands of people who die needlessly through lack of simple education and clean water. While it is the selfless calling of many to give aid in first-world countries, it by proportion alone should be the calling of MANY MANY more to bring simple aid, education, and love to the millions who are not receiving it elsewhere. The reality of this is an inverted number, with many staying on the home front and few serving the multitude.
It is not every persons responsibility to go out into the world. It is not everyone’s passion. There are more than enough people that don’t have the pull to leave America, and that is important because not everyone can go. However, for some of us, the pull is so difficult to ignore that if we tried parts of us might die. I cannot in good conscious hear of the tragedies in other countries and still stay in my comfortable home going on with day to day American activities.
The Bottom Line: Someone has to do it. I know we can handle the difficulties that come with leaving, and that makes it our responsibility.
As Mother Teresa said, “Come and see.” Once you experience selfless living it takes only a hard heart and void justifications to turn back.