Way back almost two years ago, when applying for the Peace Corps ( yes again thinking about my long journey to this point), I often wondered what it meant to actually be a Volunteer and it has been hard for me to nail down one particular reason why I am serving. My reasons keep morphing, changing and in a way “transforming”. I completely understand my responsibility as a PCV but often ask myself if there is a deeper obligation. What is the nature of the Volunteer? The day before our swearing in, a PC Staff member read us an excerpt from the book Keeping Kennedy’s Promise, a chapter called Strange Transformations (pages 152-155). Thought a few paragraphs were worth sharing….
The author talks about a review written by Norman Cousins in the Saturday Review about the opportunities the Peace Corps had in shaping or ‘transforming’ the personalities of Americans. He goes on to give examples of outstanding volunteers and talks about why they were successful.
“These volunteers comprehended the simplest truths of human nature: everyone laughs, everyone hurts. Everyone has a sense of worth, of value, and of beauty. Everyone has a culture. These are the volunteers who have, in the words of an Indian journalist, “a psychological affinity with a strange new people who may be illiterate and yet not lack the wisdom, who may live in hovels and yet dwell in spiritual splendor, who may be poor in worldly wealth and yet enjoy…a capacity to be happy. These have been the exceptional volunteers, instinctively able to hear, feel, and sense the life around them, and to join it.” (pages 153-54)
“It is not easy to be a Peace Corps volunteer, to negotiate the winding, hilly path from one culture to another. Until Peace Corps masters the secret of igniting in volunteers a sense of cultural curiosity, the best that it can do is to assure the volunteer a legitimate place in the host society. The volunteer who has a job worth doing and the skill to do it is the volunteer likely to find the people he is helping deserving of the effort. He will not lie awake nights, ridiculing them to the walls. He will be exploring the meaning of life- in their terms and in their company.” (pages 154-55)
Disclaimer: I want to make it clear that the italicized parts of this post is not of my own writing but taken from the book Keeping Kennedy’s Promise, chapter Strange Transformations, pgs 152-155. I am not looking to plagiarize or take any credit for writing that is not my own. The above was awesome and needed to be shared, hope I properly cited everything….Also, the above post and all other posts on this blog are strictly my own views and not that of the United States government or the Peace Corps.