Perhaps the best way I can describe my Motown experience is to say that it has been ‘trying.’
Not necessarily in the sense that it has been unpleasant or that it has been difficult, though I would be lying if I said that there weren’t times like that. No, what I really mean by ‘trying’ is that it has been a time when I’ve tried things.
For example, I tried living away from home for an extended period of time. Yes, I’ve lived on campus, but with light traffic, it’s less than a half-hour drive from my family. I tend to go home nearly every weekend while living on campus, but an actual separation from home is something nearly unprecedented in my life.
A second, and still more important, thing I decided I should try was leaving my ‘bubble.’ I’ve never really been outside of my white, middle-class surroundings, at least not for any length of time. I’ve been completely immersed in my own culture, and have had very little to do with other cultures or socioeconomic classes. It’s not that I’ve avoided cultures besides my own. However, I’ve never been truly immersed in any culture besides that which I was born into, the culture of the middle-class white person.
This is the main reason that I decided to join Motown Mission: I wanted to experience a perspective unlike any I’ve experienced before. And that is something that Motown has definitely been able to provide.
I’ve seen poverty and homelessness in a way that I never had before. To me, the idea of not having enough to eat, or not being able to afford proper medical care was something I knew happened, but I had trouble imagining it happening to actual people. Like many others, I have a hard time thinking of disasters that I could not see myself as anything other than a statistic that some politician would point to during a campaign speech. It was incredibly hard to think of those statistics as actual people suffering while I lived in comfort.
It’s different when you actually see the people who live in these circumstances. A million is merely a statistic. An elderly woman who’s home is almost literally falling apart around her, with a roof that barely seems to keep out any rain is something completely different. A mother and her children doing their best to live in a home where the floors look ready to break through is not a statistic. A man with an eye that is completely clouded over for lack of treatment, that is not some sad number. These are real people, and I’ve met them. I’ve spoken to them, and I’ve gotten to know them. They aren’t just ‘poor people,’ they are human beings like you or me.
When I say Motown has been trying, what I truly mean is that I’ve been trying to open my mind to the plight of others who are less fortunate than I am. It hasn’t been easy, but it was something I felt like I had to do. Was it a calling from God? I’m not entirely sure, but I believe it was.
Going forward, I believe that this position has granted me many insights that will be valuable in nearly anything I may want to do.
It’s been difficult, and, at times, extremely unpleasant, but I think that it’s been worth it. I’ve learned a lot, and, I believe, I have done something to make the world better, and I hope to continue making the world a little bit better.
Vincent Tomasino is a junior at Bethel College, studying psychology.