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Finding a Home in Service

Moving across the country or across the world in order to serve, as many of our members do, offers a host of challenges and rewards. Tucson VISTA member Kerry Johnson reflects on her first few weeks finding home in a new place:

I stepped off the plane in Tucson, Arizona, four weeks ago. I had never been here before, but the travels in my life have taught me to accept and adapt to change. Being far from family and the familiar is something to which I've grown accustomed.

The Spanish language I grew up with rings like home in my ears, and slowly its soft fluttery rhythm makes its way into my days, my dreams. My thoughts flip between English and Spanish but I notice no difference. That’s how I see the world. That’s where I stand: in between the shards of just-surviving and the serenity of planning-ahead.

I work for the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association), sister to the much better-known YMCA. Inside these walls on Bonita Avenue is a space of creativity, reflection and patience. Each light shines on the soft pink walls with just the right spice of optimism to bring clarity to the goals that each member of this female staff wakes up to fight for every day: empowering women; fighting racism; and providing the tools for women to build self-confidence and become economically independent.

It’s a community space for change-makers. It’s a multicultural and bilingual platform providing a pathway out of poverty with a comprehensive approach to personal health and realizing potential.

I am not from here. I am from Colombia, from Honduras, from Vermont. The stark differences between the fresh, clean air of the Green Mountain state and the crusty desert winds of the Grand Canyon state depict two worlds that will never meet. I am getting used to cacti instead of day lilies, and four-lane main roads with a median instead of dirt back roads curving between trees. But it’s all about perspective.

I joined AmeriCorps VISTA because I have traveled to several countries in Latin America to help, to make a difference, to debunk stereotypes and incite change. But the winds have refocused my eyes on a new horizon. It’s time to make change in my own country, to march my feet in new soils and stamp out a new perspective of what it means to affect the lives of others.

I am not from here. I came here four weeks ago. But the sun shines every day, the people I meet make me smile, and piece by piece “home” is reshaping itself into the mold of Tucson, Arizona. I joined AmeriCorps to make a difference in my country, to share and adopt new perspectives, and to work really hard for a cause and for people that matter. In English and in Spanish I am growing, and I am finding home.

Published on September 22, 2014 by Molly Sheehy.

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