Recently, I was waiting to cross Garfield Boulevard, the street in front of the school I am working at, one cold day when the teacher I work with jokingly shouted, “Let’s make a run for it!” as cars rushed towards us.
“Go ahead if you want,” I replied, “but I value my life!”
We laughed as we continued to wait and watch the stream of cars fly by, but behind my laughter, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of pride in my ability to speak those words aloud: “I value my life.”
There was a time when I really believed I would never be happy. I didn’t feel like I had a purpose. I woke up most days feeling undeserving of the things I had and I wondered if I would ever feel like I offered any contribution to society.
By the time I reached college, I had come a long way from where I was back then, but at times, I still felt like something was missing. I wanted to take action and contribute something in a way I had never had the time or courage to do before.
As a teacher’s assistant in a fourth and fifth grade classroom, my work can still sometimes feel small, especially when the kids continue to get in trouble for behavioral problems. However, I am still happy because every once in a while, I am shown by the kids how much of a difference I am really making. For example, after giving a small lesson on the solar system at the end of the day to the fourth graders, one girl came up to me afterwards and said, “I really like science when you teach it, Ms. Emili!”
On another day, I was working with a fourth grade boy who struggles with several subjects due to a learning disability. Lately, we have been working on his self-esteem before schoolwork because he gets easily discouraged. On this day however, we were filling out a worksheet. In between questions, he asked if I would remember him after I left Chicago. I told him I would definitely remember him because I care about him. He then said, “Good, because I’ll remember you forever!”
This is why I became a Dominican Volunteer. By serving others, I find purpose. If I can make a difference in one or two lives, I have contributed something, however small. I don’t have to change the world to contribute to society as long as I can change someone else’s world in some way. Hearing those kind words from the fourth graders has made me more fully realize my value as I continue to do this work. It can be frustrating, stressful, and occasionally maddening, but moments like these make it worthwhile. And I am happy. I value my life.
|Emili with her House of Connections Community|