I am participating in #Trust30, an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself.
Prompt #3: One Strong Belief by Buster Benson
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?
(Author: Buster Benson)
He looked like someone's grandfather. A counter-culture, hippy-ish grandfather, but a grandfather none the less. Ricardo Navarro was standing in the center of the small, thatched roof, quanset hut speaking about his beloved El Salvador, passion pouring out with his every word. The beautiful environmental center that served as our in-country home, tucked deep amidst the bananas and papayas in the El Salvadoran jungle, was his baby, his gift, in a way to the people of this country he loved so deeply. We had been told very little about what he would talk about, but it took only minutes for his message to become clear. His country was in crisis, his people in danger. Things had to change.
His message was not an easy one to hear. This was not just about what was going on in El Salvador, a country that had been degraded by the civil war. It was much more complicated than that. He needed us to understand the connections. Understand how the pieces fit together. Connections to foreign policy. To economic policy. To human rights.
To the place we call home.
When I graduated from college, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. It was a decision that did not sit particularly well with my parents who had imagined me at the University of Chicago learning about Gaugin and Renoir and Michelangelo. Instead of pouring over the art of the Italian Renaissance, I found my way to the plains of Montana to live with a group of six other women who had signed on to be "ruined for life", the motto of the JVC. While it would have been wonderful to spend Saturdays at the Art Institute, there was something captivating about going off to "make a difference" in the world, even though, at the time, I really didn't know what that would mean. It was a year of doing for others, a year of learning about the hardships of life for those whose voices are not often heard.
It was a decision that changed my life forever. Deep down I knew that being a part of something that had the potential to make a difference was important to me. It was a year that turned into a lifetime.
As a kid I was fascinated by Joan of Arc, Don Quixote and Cesar Chavez. There was something intriguing to me about people who lived their beliefs, who wore their passions on the outside where everyone could see. I was in awe of people who stood for something. Ricardo Navarro is that kind of person.
Had he ever felt afraid, I asked him after he spoke. Had he ever felt like his life was in danger for speaking his truth? "Yes," he told me quite frankly. "There was a time when I wore a bullet proof vest and traveled with body guards." Colleagues, he told me, had been murdered for speaking out.
I found myself hoping, that in the face of danger, I too would have the courage to stand firm.
I've often been asked by my students about how I chose social work. How I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I didn't choose, I tell them. It chose me.
As I have gotten older, it is still those people who intrigue me. People who hold firm to their beliefs even though sometimes, they are the lone voice in the wilderness.
It's who I aspire to be.