Natasha Ferguson (Sophomore, featured on the left)
“Will you be back tomorrow?” I remember one of the fourth grader girls ask me, as she wrapped her arms around my legs in a big hug minutes before we left the meager elementary school that my 7th grade class had visited for our annual social service trip. Along with my small class of forty-seven students, I was about to sit in a airconditioned bus for around half an hour as we drove back into Panama City, listening to music with my–at the time– super hip IPod Touch, wearing some comfy Gap jeans, only to arrive to a loving mother who would be waiting for and willing to drive me home to my standard apartment with a beautiful ocean view. My job that day had been to take care of and entertain the fourth grade class, which comprised of a little more than a dozen students, through puppet shows, english classes and games. Along with my other two partners, we had brought the children snacks, unsuccessfully taught them the colors in english, and played in the burning tropical heat, leaving me exhausted and ready to go home. However, as that little girl, with her elaborate braids and tanned skin, hugged me and asked me if I was coming back, I couldn’t help but feel my heart ache. I wanted to be there for her the next day, and the one after that. I wanted to be there for her, make her laugh, learn her story. While I was about to go back to a loving family and comfortable home, I knew that she was probably going back to a broken household, the case for most of these children, with little food, little space and more often than not, abusive or neglecting parents. I wanted to promise her I would be back, but what did I do? I went back to school and to my privileged life. How selfish of me.
It is easy to feel guilty about privilege, regardless of how much one has. When one sees a picture of a child in Ghana, Afghanistan or India, it is easy to feel guilty for complaining about gaining weight and maintaining a diet. When one encounters a set of young siblings trying to sell gum at an intersection, it is easy to feel guilty for being seated in a car with a.c., probably headed to a job that provides more than enough for one to maintain oneself and one’s family. When one sees a woman or man sleeping on the street, it is easy to feel guilty for having a bed, with fluffy bedding and more than one pillows. It is easy to feel guilty, but how often do we stop focusing on the guilt and ask ourselves why? Why did we luck out on life? Why were we given these opportunities? What can we do with the luxury and power we don’t need? Help others.
I joined Empower Orphans (EO) PSU because I aspire to use my privilege to share it with others who are less fortunate than me. I believe that I am lucky enough to attend Penn State, not only to complete a collegiate education, but to get involved in service clubs such as EO PSU, where I can directly serve and help others, particularly children, who face much harsher circumstances than me. While it is easy to get discouraged, and to dwell on what qualifies us to be this lucky, it is important to remain grateful and maintain awareness of the power we can have in other people’s lives.