A Visit to Chicago

“Here is my secret.  It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”
Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This is perhaps the most famous quote from The Little Prince, one of my older sister’s favorite novellas – in fact she owns copies in 3 languages!   She was the first to introduce me to the veiled wisdom within it’s pages, but truthfully, it was difficult for me to appreciate the profoundly simple life-lessons contained within the children’s book.  At the time, I attributed this confusion to a lack of life experiences – those learning and growth opportunities which would serve to broaden my perspective.  However, ‘The Little Prince’ would likely suggest that I was simply practicing the very adult habit of over-analysis which causes one to miss seeing the forest through the trees.  My few years of involvement with TVC has provided the clarity to understand the simple secret of Le Petit Prince.

As an ‘absentee board member’ now residing on the west coast, it was a great privilege to visit Chicago last week and immerse myself in numerous TVC activities.  The highlight of the trip was my introduction to the new student interns at Dominican University and a first-hand observation of our volunteers in action around campus.  The Dominican U Library is a wonderful place for students to study and peruse the thousands of volumes on hand, which our TVC volunteers help to maintain through ongoing efforts to dust all the shelves of books. Everyone is hoping to replicate the tremendous progress shown in the ‘Secret Garden’ and apply some ‘TVC TLC’ to the on-campus greenhouse.  What a fantastic sight it will be to observe some green life in the dead of winter!

Our students and volunteers will help to leave their mark on Dominican in their own special way and the fruits of their efforts will be visible to all who they encounter.  On any given day one may see Karina and Vanessa pulling weeds in the ‘secret garden’ or Andrew and Julia dusting stacks of books in the library and be impressed with their hard work, dedication, and compassion. However, take a proverbial step back and what you observe will truly inspire!

I contend that we live within a society of labels – our professions, cultures, appearances, [etc] all play a role in our interactions with others.  Spend some time with any of our volunteers and you’ll quickly find that they view our world in a very different way!  Within minutes of meeting Yusra (and our small entourage of new faces), Jackie was excitedly handing out high-fives to everyone in the group!  Her positive-attitude is simply infectious and one can’t help but grin in her presence. Instead of focusing on ‘labels’ which inherently only serve to categorize differences, our volunteers see past the disparity to what we have in common and connects us all on a human level.

Our student interns are equally impressive!  As a recent graduate, I know all too well what a challenge school can be; life becomes a careful balancing act of work, classes, and extracurricular activities, which leaves little time or energy for much else. Seeing Derek and Lauren engaged in an animated conversation it’s obvious that Lauren, like all of our students, are not spending their time with TVC for any type of gain or recognition, but rather because they care about shaping their world into a better place, one seemingly-small act of kindness at a time!

As a board member, I am supposed to lend my efforts in helping our volunteers succeed, yet more often than not, I find that it is they who have helped me to grow and develop.  Through their actions they inspire me to be the best possible person I can be – so that I may live up to their example.  TVC reminds me to accept the challenge in my own life of not seeing with my eyes, but rather opening my heart to others.  That secret, whether learned through a children’s book or cherished memories with Trinity Volunteers, is a gift that’s worth sharing!

-Brian Hamamoto