Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Feel Important

I was informed the other day by a friend (Hi, Jess! She has her own blog now too!) that my blog was, in fact, freaking her out and beginning to depress her (I think this one was particularly scary to read). Not exactly the sentiments I'm shooting for when she's starting her year here at NPH Guatemala in July.

So, just in case anyone else out there is thinking that when I look back on this year I'll only see an año of frustrations, in which I was a completely disposable volunteer who wasn't really making much of a difference in anyone's life....well, please allow me to set the record straight. :)

I feel important here.

I've come to learn that it isn't necessarily hard to feel valuable here, but that feeling isn't going to be handed to me on a platter either. As volunteers, you have to be confident in yourself. You have to remind yourself what it is you're doing well, and you have to remind each other too. You have to focus on the small things and know that in the end, the small things are the big picture.

So who cares if these kids don't remember my name when I leave? Why stress about leaving a legacy when I can enjoy what I'm doing right now? After all, what's that saying, Jess? Something about "vivir en el momento," isn't it? :)

Right now, I feel important because:

I've doubled,  maybe tripled, the number of articles about NPH Guatemala that go up on our website. No, the kids never see those, but fundraisers and sponsors around the world now have double the information to use to market NPH and increase its support. Information makes the world go 'round.

I've helped create a monthly kid-produced magazine, and we've stayed consistent. Every month, we've distributed a new issue. In a place like NPH, simply holding up your end of the bargain can mean a lot to these kids.

I'm teaching a Quinceañera waltz and sharing in 15 teenage girls' ear-splitting excitement for it. Those girls might not remember my name in five years, but they will always remember their Quinceañera, and they will always remember how beautiful they felt during that dance.

I'm hanging out with my section of girls -- just me. I don't bring them games, I don't bake them cakes, and I don't buy them presents. Instead, they hear me answer their questions about how much I loved university and classes and how I don't currently have a boyfriend ("Why not?" "Because I don't need to have one all the time."). Maybe one of those comments will stick.

And I've made friends with incredible co-volunteers, learning from them every single day. Yeah, I know we're supposed to be here for the kids, but I say that's too narrow. Teaching and being taught by your housemates, co-workers, and new friends is something just as life-shaping, isn't it?

Now, if I can feel this good about myself, then the volunteers who actually have unlimited patience with the kids, who know all of them, and who actually work all day long with kids (instead of blogging all day from their cushy office chair), should have no trouble giving themselves a GIANT pat on the back. Housemates stalking my blog, go ahead and give yourself one right now.

So sure, sometimes it's easier to feel frustrated, and it's easier to just feel like one in a series of replaceable volunteers. But since when is taking the easy way out ever the best choice?

Nope, instead, I prefer this: I feel important.

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