Santa Clara University

"What I Gave of Myself Was Small"

Mother Teresa's words are ones that a few years back I would have read and tossed aside. But now, as a senior on the cusp of entering the world, I have grasped them wholeheartedly. One aspect of my Santa Clara education that I will take with me forever is my community-based learning experiences.

During my freshman year, I heard about the Arrupe placements my friends were a part of. I did not have the privilege of being in a class that required them, and I was jealous. When presented with a community-based learning opportunity through my Residential Learning Community, I jumped at the chance. It was appealing in many ways, including that it enabled me to move into the residence hall early and having special dinners with my class.

My CBL experience began with an urban plunge with organizations in the San Jose area. We spent the night in a homeless shelter to fully experience what it was like to be without a home. After two days, we were released back into the "Santa Clara bubble," unable to comprehend what we had just been through.

Confused and saddened by things I'd seen, I struggled with the life of a regular student. Through meetings with my CBL class, which consisted of students, resident ministers, and our RLC faculty director, we were able to process these feelings together. The class would meet over a meal and discuss our placements, often referring back to the trying days we spent out in the community. I began to feel better about my growing understanding of issues in our society, and I was beginning to see how I could help.

I then spent a quarter in the preschool program at Sacred Heart Community Services. At first I was a bit intimidated (yes, intimidated by 5-year-olds) because most of the children spoke Spanish and my Spanish skills were passable at best. But I soon learned the language barrier was no problem. Every week, I would have children clinging to me, begging me to play and laugh with them.

I was caring for these children while their parents were learning valuable skills, like proficiency in English, to get the family ahead. Looking back, I can confidently say the time I spent with those kids has meant more in the long run than money. And even though what I gave of myself was small, it was worthwhile and meaningful to me and to them.

Santa Clara has taught me that even though I may have been dealt a better hand in the game of life, it does not mean I am above people labeled as homeless or disabled. I have come a long way in how I view the world around me. I am more conscious of those I help—and I know I am not "helping the less fortunate" but rather giving my love to others.