As I walk toward the trunk of a red Nissan Altima with a bottle of laundry detergent, I catch a middle-aged Latina woman smiling underneath her yellow polka-dot mask. Her teary eyes had a sparkle of hope.
“Gracias,” she says as she pulls up to the next station.
The COVID-19 outbreak is having an unprecedented impact on our lives and communities, but it has also created new opportunities.
At the beginning of the pandemic, going outside was a treat. As usual, my dad and I were shopping for a week’s worth of groceries; yet, unusually, countless carts were overflowing with months’ worth of daily essentials. Chaos, panic and anxiety permeated the atmosphere, making me wonder about those who weren’t able to leave their homes. As we were walking around witnessing the chaos at our local Sam’s Club, I asked my dad, “What can I do to help lighten the load?”
As a social media fanatic, I thought about a better way to use Facebook as an intermediate platform that would connect my community with those in need of essential supplies. After a couple of Zoom meetings with local businesses, organizations and civilians, it blew my mind how my humble Facebook page evolved into serving 55,000 people over the course of 12 weeks.
Navigating through my emotions had been an acquired characteristic of mine that was reflected in my actions. Whether it was portraying a character in my speech prose piece or depicting a story through Indian classical dance, I had to understand the emotions of others. Whenever I saw someone upset, I had an urge to help them feel better and be there for others. It was that same type of urge I felt standing in the cleaning aisle of Sam’s Club.
Immersing myself in volunteering and understanding the emotions of others highlighted a side of me that was hidden: my passion to empower others through shared experiences and building relationships. Every time I volunteered at the hospital, it instilled a feeling of satisfaction and happiness. However, leading and witnessing the evolution of my Facebook group amplified that feeling.
In the past, I had always missed this direct connection of creating change. But every time I would fill the car up with produce, my heart fluttered with joy as I caught a glimpse of their tired grins. Involving myself with the speech team gave me the confidence that my voice mattered, and I could advocate for others through understanding and appreciating others. Positive energy radiated within me after every drive-thru event.
Sometimes a spark is all it takes to ignite a fire of passion, and this was my spark. A spark that ignited my desire to become a physician, breaking down barriers and progressing health standards in less fortunate communities.
Fast forward 12 weeks, I recognized the yellow polka-dot masked woman. Except this time she wasn’t behind the wheel of her car, she was standing beside me on the distribution line handing out watermelons. She said, “When all our hopes were lost, you gave us hope.”