With the GCY training coming to an end, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I experienced so far. My mind is cluttered with so many memories, but one has really impacted to me these past two weeks. It was last Tuesday, when the Fellows and I ventured into San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.
The assignment that day was to be in the shoes of people who live in that neighborhood. This involved spending the day in the Tenderloin and talking to people there so that we could gain their perspectives. I was intimidated at first, mostly because of the assumptions I had of that place. The Tenderloin is known to be one of the poorest and toughest areas in San Francisco. So I assumed that I wouldn’t feel safe in that dangerous place.
Well … my assumptions were wrong. Most of the people I met were very friendly and approachable. Out of all of them, two left an impact on me.
The first person was Lauren (“Lolo”), a K-8 private school teacher who was once a victim of drug abuse and poverty. She explained her personal story, which involved her ability to overcome her problems. Since then, she became a teacher so that she can guide students to not follow the dangerous path she took in her past. “Lolo” even offered to take my group and I around the Tenderloin. She felt it was important for us to see and understand the place so that we would drop our previous assumptions. At this point, I felt embarrassed from the bad judgments about the people who lived here.
The second individual who left an impact on me further expanded this feeling. His name is Isaac and he is a homeless man who suffers from a bipolar disorder. We talked for an hour and had a meaningful conversation about religion and life. To be honest, I was surprised to have an in-depth conversation with him. Afterwards, Isaac thanked us for taking the time to talk to him. He said it made him feel less lonely and rejected because we treated him like a normal human being.
Overall, this moment sticks out to me because my assumptions were broken. I gained more empathy and perspectives, and it would’ve never happened if I didn’t have this opportunity. It helped me reshape my thoughts and realize that I shouldn’t make judgments on an individual until I meet and understand them.
When I think about it, this moment is going to parallel with many of the situations I’ll face in Ecuador. I’m glad that I was able to learn about it now, because I feel that it will add more to my future experience.