"As an AmeriCorps service member who receives a living stipend for the work I do at my agency, I am always blown away by the abundant generosity of the many people who volunteer their time at our agency without being paid a cent. One in particular really touched me today and I wanted to share this experience while preserving the confidentiality of those mentioned, so I have asked Maggie to post this story so that it will not be traceable to the agency I work at.
I had a stressful day at work yesterday, as surely most AmeriCorps members have experienced. I was pretty upset by an interaction I had with someone and I really didn't want to go back in today. But as soon as I walked in the office, I was greeted with a huge smile by one of our regular volunteers. She told me how glad she was to see me today and I could tell that she really meant it. I smiled back and told her I was really glad to see her too, and after talking with her for a few minutes I knew today was going to be MUCH better than yesterday.
People volunteer at our agency for all different reasons. Many of our volunteers are HIV-positive or have family members who are positive.
This particular volunteer has an adult son who is HIV-positive. What makes this person's story so powerful for me is that her son also volunteers at our agency, and he speaks very openly about the risk behaviors he used to engage in (commercial sex work and IV drug use).
Unlike many parents who reject their kids when they contract HIV, or when they find out about the behaviors their child has engaged in regardless of whether those activities led to HIV infection, this woman told her son that she loves him no matter what. He has long since quit working the streets and using drugs, and she has stuck by him all through his recovery. The two of them volunteer several days a week each at our agency, and the work they do is in areas that truly have the greatest impact on the ability of the center to function -- we simply could not run this show without them. Every time I see them I am filled with hope.
You don't have to be a superhero or a saint to make a difference in someone's life. The people in this field who are making a difference are the ones who bring their hearts with them. It's the people who show up and "love no matter what" who are transforming the world we live in. It's the people who take a few minutes out of their day to let someone know how glad they are to see them, even without knowing what a difference those few words have made in the heart of a person who was afraid today would be an awful one. Yesterday I left work feeling like nothing I did would ever really make a difference. Today I knew as soon as I came in that I really AM making a difference, just by showing up...and it felt so good to be able to share that feeling with someone whose service I admire so profoundly!"
--2009-2010 National AIDS Fund AmeriCorps member