One July evening, year 1998 I was hiding on a hill behind my grandparents house to smoke and cry. I was taking everything in and my heart was heavy with sadness. The house is gone. The people are gone.
I haven’t been there since.
I had just graduated from university. I had spent the previous summer with my aunt in Chicago and I liked it. I saw a chance for me in Chicago for independence.This was not easily accomplished in the nineties in Poland. Jobs were scarce and young people depended on the family. I craved leaving the small town and cutting the cord between me and my parents.
There was no plan. There still is none.
Everybody considered me lucky after I received a US visa for the second time. I boarded the plane and didn’t look back. Nobody expected it would be for so long. My father’s farewell words were the ancestors’ gran frase, which means, “God, Honour, Country.”
Not long after, I was navigating suburban ranch house subdivisions, my little cousins cruising on their tricycles, and everybody greeting us. People smiled, asked how we were doing? The cousins insisted they didn’t know any of these people. I was stunned by how my quiet, shy, non-English speaking, sleeping during the day aunt, managed to befriend all the neighborhood and beyond!?
I remember walking in the mall, when I stared at a severely obese girl while a group of teenagers passed her without a comment. No heads turning, no meaningful glances. I knew I was somewhere else. I came across Alopecia Areata support group and now we were talking!
Many people helped me when I first arrived in the US. First and foremost was my aunt who fed me, sheltered me, drove me, and guided me. She even moved her kids into another bedroom in their small condo, so I could have a room for myself. I made friends who showed me around, gave me advice, helped with a job, entertained me.
I don’t recall anybody who discouraged me–circumstances of my own making did. My visa soon expired and my options with it. It’s here that I realized the fulfillment of giving back and the joy of volunteering.
On the wall inside the PRC, I saw a quote speaking directly to my doubts that more or less says: You are always at right place to start making a difference.