In second grade, helping someone means lending them a pencil or saving a spot in line. But as I grew older, helping people became more personal. I always wanted to do more, but joining ¨a community of faith that unites people to work for peace with justice¨ frightened my knickers off.
Growing up, I was always a Girl Scout. We made a promise at the beginning of every meeting. In that promise, we promised to love God, our country and to help people at all times. I can imagine myself at seven years old taking this to heart and trying to discover what helping people meant. In second grade, helping someone means lending them a pencil or saving a spot in line. But as I grew older, helping people became more personal. It was singing Christmas Carols at a nursing home, befriending the new girl at school or collecting items for a nearby women’s shelter. The idea of service had been planted so naturally in me that it felt more than extra curricular activity that I could add to my college application.
By the time I got to college and I had participated in more service projects than I can remember. I continued in small ways at my school by volunteering when needed, but I was afraid to take a leadership role because of insecurities and a full time job I worked. I always wanted to do more, but I was intimidated by those who were really making change in my community. I was merely volunteering to walk kids around a fair that those leaders had spent several hours and all-nighters working on. After being the high school President of Interact club, I felt I had taken several steps back.
As I graduated from college, I was lost in the way I wanted my life to go. I received a degree in Business Administration but I didn’t want to go into an entry level position that had no real interest or value. I stumbled upon Lutheran Volunteer Corps, applied and was accepted into a position at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. LVC implanted in my head that what I was doing was joining ¨a community of faith that unites people to work for peace with justice.¨ If I thought planning service fairs intimidating, the mission of LVC frightened my knickers off. I was sure I had gone over my head in what I was capable of doing for change. Here I was, 22, middle class, and my family was full of accountants whose idea of current events was the new tax law that was just passed.
I now found myself working at an organization whose mission and vision seemed out of my soup-serving league. They help tens of thousands of people every year, fought for rights of migrants on the Capitol steps and helped give second chances to those most in need of protection. I had read all the information on the work of LIRS but still it seemed like a distant idea that I should really want to involve myself. Throughout the year, I learned the issues. Those distant ideas soon become my daily thoughts. I would find myself at Capitol Hill, speaking to congressmen about the DREAM Act and writing letters to my representatives about refugee protection.
While living in community with four other social justice-oriented people, I found myself having nightly discussions about human rights, how to make Baltimore a better city, and how my white privilege helped define me when I wasn’t paying attention. I felt like my life had become the promise I made at the beginning of every Girl Scout meeting, in every aspect.
At the end of the year, the challenge I now face is how do I remain this person I had grown to like. I think about every single dollar I spend (and when you only have $105- that’s not too much!), I pay more attention to the news than I do the latest celebrity blog, and I walk places and use public transit instead of driving a car. I thought I had gotten rid of the shallow person who thought the only change she was capable of was recycling her Diet Coke bottle—but that person will always be there.
Every day I try to stay intentional with the changes in my life. I’m not perfect by any means (even though I’d like to believe I am..) and each day I’m tempted by shoes and the Cheesecake Factory, but I’m making a promise to myself to learn from my experiences and stay intentional on moving forward.
Tori Carroll recently finished her year of LVC service with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and currently is a short-term recruiters for Lutheran Volunteer Corps.