Letter: Who is serving whom?
My first experience in service started in high school in Cincinnati. I had the opportunity to mentor a teenager who lived across the river in the low-income neighborhood of Covington, Kentucky. We spent Saturdays together doing what teenage girls do — going to movies, the zoo, shopping. We came from very different cultures but learned about each other. I don’t know exactly what my mentee took away from this friendship, but I know what I learned at that formative age — empathy.
Fast forward 40-plus years. I find myself in a similar situation, spending an hour a week with someone I never would have known were it not for English In Action.
After a busy day of work I sit down at Carmen’s kitchen table in the Basalt trailer park. We share our week’s activities and upcoming plans in English. Six months ago, Carmen and I were matched as a mentor/student pair. Now we are friends and neighbors. Six months ago Carmen spoke only a very basic level of English. Now she has the confidence to use her English skills and she speaks at a much higher level. Her friends at work comment on her progress and are envious of her proficiency.
It takes me only five minutes to ride my bike to Carmen’s home. Yet I never would have met her had I not become a tutor with English In Action. Sadly, there are too few opportunities to form cross-cultural relationships in our society. I would argue that the empathy that is generated through “serving” others will make you stop and ask, “who’s serving whom?”
English In Action has a wait list of more than 100 students eager to be matched with a tutor. That means there are at least 100 opportunities for English speakers in our community to serve and be served, to give an hour a week and receive one of the greatest gifts in life … empathy.
co-chair, board of trustees, English in Action