My father served in the Peace Corps after college, and I had grown up hearing about how it was the hardest job he ever loved. When I was winding up to graduate early with my own degree, I realized I wanted that same challenge but wondered if I would have any real impact. Then a question was posed to me, if someone is called to undergo hardship only to have an impact on a single life -- isn’t that single life worth all the sacrifice?
I applied to Peace Corps and was invited to serve in the Republic of Georgia. I then spent two years teaching English in a rural mountain village on the Turkish border. Learning the language to an advanced level was a testament to the depth of relationships I developed with my community. Service became less of an act and more of a lifestyle. There were the daily sacrifices as a teacher, spending hours after school doing clubs, camps, concerts, and tutoring. And then there were the major investments such as implementing a grant to get the village its first fully-resourced classroom and coordinating a 17-country writing competition.
Coming back upon completion of service was difficult. It took only a couple months before I was diagnosed with PTSD from the wide range of dangerous situations I had experienced. While there, each terrifying event had heightened an intense desire to love the children who would be living in those circumstances for the rest of their lives. But after returning home I have reeled from the all-encompassing fear and anxiety that I never felt while there.
Sometimes I look back on my service and wonder if all the danger and all the pain was worth the emotional, mental, and physical consequences I will have for the rest of my life. Then I remember a single child on my last day in the village who shyly waited for all his classmates to leave, and then hugged me as tightly as he could and cried, "don't go."
Even if it is only one life, it is worth it.