by Rosaurys Baez, Americorps member on the Boston Civic Engagement Team
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I was introduced into service at the age of 13 when I entered the private Catholic education system. We were inspired to be the change that we wanted to see in the world, and that just one pair of hands made a difference in someone’s life. I realized that the smallest gestures can make someone else’s day. There are so many things that we take for granted that others don’t get, such as something as simple as human contact. Service was the only concrete thing in my life. Service made me realize that my goal was to be the hands that showed people them their true worth. Coming from a background where both parents struggled to put food on the table, worked hard to provide us with resources such as gloves for the winter, and weren’t fully able to help with understanding school material due to the fact that they struggle with the English language was very difficult. After my experience as an immigrant child and all the obstacles I had to overcome to be where I am today, I wanted to ensure I helped those around me as much as I possibly could.
Service was a mandatory task during my high school years. As you progressed in each grade, the amount of community service hours that needed to be completed increased. Of course, community service wasn’t exactly the most interesting thing during my freshman year. I recall making the completion of my hours my priority over the actual experience. As a senior in high school, we needed to complete 60 hours of service before May 28, which was our graduation. We were done with school by mid-April and given the whole month to achieve it. Due to still attending an AP course, I need locate a service location near my school. Wingate was a nursing home near the school that needed volunteers which made my commute perfect. I was not looking forward to my time there, not only because past seniors kept telling me that I would have the worst experience of my life and that I would regret it, but because it meant I had to work with the elderly and I wasn’t exactly comfortable with that. I remember getting into that freshman mindset from before where all that mattered was finishing my hours and nothing else.
On my first day, I encountered a woman who inspired me to live in positivity even when everything around me is going downhill. On my first hour of being at the nursing home, I was greeted by a woman who had a husband as a patient at the home. She told us that her husband was a patient at the home due to multiple surgeries and having just been found blind. Due to all the things happening in her life, this woman had no ounce of sorrow in her voice or the way she presented herself. She continued to express her feelings about the place and the patients and how she was so fortunate to be part of the community. She changed my view of the place in just that small interaction. There was a specific patient who held a special place in my heart. Her name was Emma but she preferred Elly. As I got to spend more time with her, I saw myself in her more and more. Her pure heart and open arms were things I wanted to take away with me. The amount of love and care that she gave to others around her was exactly what the world needed. I wished I could have shared more time with Elly but that wasn’t possible due to another patient at the home. This brings me to one of my biggest challenges, Irene. Irene was a patient who lost her entire family and all her friends. She was always kept to herself and spoke to no one except for Elly. I made several attempts to engage Irene in conversation but she refused and would just walk away. It was very frustrating attempting to help someone who didn’t want help. I found myself in Irene that day. Losing someone who meant everything to you has to be one of the most difficult experiences in life. Irene didn’t just lose people in her life but hope: hope that anyone would fulfill their promises to stay around; hope that someone would be there for her when she wanted to give up and remind her why her existence is important to this world.
Community service holds a special place in my heart because it gives me the opportunity to give back to my community, and connect with new people on a daily basis. The power of a simple small act of kindness is often underestimated. The reason I joined City Year was to help families and youth who struggle in the world. Everyone has some part of Irene in themselves. As an immigrant child, I struggled with hope. There were moments where I felt like I was getting nowhere and wanted to give up. That is when I found myself an Elly who showed me my self-worth. I wanted to ensure I helped those around me as much as I possibly can. I wanted to ignite the flame of hope in every Irene I met in life. Being a part of the City Year Boston gives me that opportunity. There is not one day that I am not proud of waking up, putting on the uniform and serving.