Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Giving Back to the Community that Raised Me

Photo by Arihant Daga
Looking down at India from 1000 feet and climbing, I never cried so hard in my life. We were really leaving. 2 months before this flight, I was the happiest I have ever been. My mother worked tirelessly for months and finally her hard work paid off, she got a nursing job in America! Wow, America! In my mind, the whole United States was Disney Land, where dreams come true. I was 11-years-old when my mother told me we would be leaving. The following months I studied everything I could about the US. I went to the library and checked out all the books I could find. I watched as much Full-House and Fresh-Prince of Bel-Air that I was allowed to watch. I couldn’t wait to find out where we would move. San Francisco, California? New York, New York? No and no, we were moving to Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville didn’t have a hit TV show and it wasn’t mentioned in any of my books.

So here we are on the airplane, 1000 feet and climbing, leaving everything I knew for something I knew nothing about.

Our first apartment didn’t remind me of any TV show, not by a long shot. We settled in what I now know is a low-income neighborhood. Police sirens and forced entries weren’t foreign happenings to this area. But there were families; air-tight families that welcomed us into their community. We didn’t have a car for months, but the community was always there to help. We had a neighbor who took us to school, another neighbor who helped get us groceries, and a neighbor who let me use his bike at my discretion, as long as I remembered which streets we couldn’t play on.

My parents relocated our family to the opposite side of town where the crime rate was less concerning. I was surprised to realize that even here, the community’s embrace was the same. Again, they welcomed us with open arms. They helped my father find a better job. They kept my brother and I safe. We got more involved in the community than ever before. I began working with Big Brother Big Sister of America and met my first mentee. I joined the church choir and worked with the local Sign Language Clubs. I finally became a part of the community that embraced us so much.

Photo by Lance Asper
America as it turns out, wasn’t at all what I expected and it was nothing like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It was something even better. It was a community filled with amazing people, people our immigrant family came to depend on. My community accepted us wholeheartedly and taught me one crucial thing; Jacksonville is a city that gives. I’ve spent my whole life trying to return the favor. I hope one day to feel like my debt has been repaid.

Charlotte Mack

Sunday, June 9, 2019

I Just Graduated, Is It Too Soon to Give Back?

Even though I spent the last 7 years studying to provide healthcare to others, I found myself feeling like I had been selfish over the years. Everything I had been doing was focused on me; my education, my development, and my growth. The world I knew became smaller and smaller compared to the world I used to live in.

Finding time in my schedule for volunteering, mentoring, women's rights, and humanitarianism became more and more difficult the further I advanced in my academic career. What I’ve come to realize is it that it's not impossible to marry your passion and your immediate responsibilities, it simply takes a deliberate effort.
You're always available for your calling. Most importantly, focusing only on what's in front of you can keep you from seeing the world, that is all around you.
Charlotte Mack

During my graduate education, I started making a genuine effort to carve time out of my schedule to give back. I started a blog about women's empowerment with a focus on domestic abuse, human trafficking, and women's rights. I tried to post at least once or twice a month. It was difficult to schedule, I thought no one cared about my research (and I really put hours into each post) and my graduate projects still required my attention, but I persisted. I began to develop a "flow," and amazing things started to happen. I connected with my audience. Real people with real stories shared their experiences in a therapeutic, cathartic forum. It only took one person to be impacted by something I was passionate about to validate the time I set aside to pursue my passion.

I do not believe there is a perfect time to do what you're passionate about. I also do not believe there is an ideal age to do what you're passionate about. When your purpose calls you, walk up to the fountain of the universe and take a sip. If you don't respond to this call, you will feel internally conflicted. It's no different than depriving yourself of water when your body is telling you you're thirsty.

Everyone has a purpose in life. Your purpose pulls at your gut every time you're confronted with it. When you persist in what you are passionate about, I can tell you what will happen next. Slowly your endless sea of scheduling conflicts will part, and a path to your purpose will present itself. That's what happened to me, not on a vast scale but a powerful one nonetheless.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston Churchhill

If you feel your purpose is calling you, but the timing isn't "perfect," just know the timing will likely never be perfect, but you are the perfect person to execute your vision today. It's never too early to give back.

Giving Back to the Community that Raised Me

Looking down at India from 1000 feet and climbing, I never cried so hard in my life. We were really leaving. 2 months before this flig...