Gap is a semester long experiential learning program. This program has shown me the importance of a community. Seeing first hand the injustice faced by marginalized groups in society and learning ways we can combat injustices. Tied together Gap takes us through a transformative process of seeing and seeking the common good for all.
Before I was introduced to the Gap program I had held a certain view about the world. I thought that injustice, poverty, etc. were all things that have and will continue to exist. I felt apathetic to help out another in the broader context of I was focusing on making sense of this life and my meaning in it for myself. I had no motivation at the time because of this. I wanted to know more about myself, discover more about what brings meaning and purpose to my life. With that being said when I heard about Gap I was intrigued, not necessarily for the service focus at the time but the thought of traveling to various places. Traveling has always been in the back of my mind as something I have a passion for. Seeing how different and importantly how similar people are around parts of the world. Mixed in with experiences that many people do not have the opportunity for, I sought after the program as well to lift the veil of my ignorance to the problems facing people’s everyday lives. Though I knew that to do so I would have to focus on others instead of myself.
How I view Gap has changed throughout each portion we experienced. It began as a journey of personal perseverance and instilled a firm understanding of the importance of a group dynamic. As we moved on we kept adding things onto our firm foundation that we built in the wilderness together. Unearthing and evaluating the perceptions we hold in our minds and challenging them. Using history as a lens to see the pattern of injustices and how that impacts peoples lives in this current age. When I view Gap it is through each individual part that I extrapolate the broader meaning. This is how I have others view this as well because it was a journey that depended on each portion. Sharing my experience with others brought me joy in reminiscing but those moments were few. A majority of people I talked to about Gap wanted the focus to be on the fun aspects of the trip. They want to hear about what you saw and the cool things you did but they did not care much for the struggles and hardships everyday brought to the table. This pressures me to miss the point of the whole journey. Which is why I have learned to not let a majority of the conversations change my perception of what Gap taught me. The minority of people find joy in what I am doing and learning, which has reaffirmed for me the importance of serving the common good.
Serving the common good was a recurring theme throughout our journey. Every portion depended on our will to seek the best for each individual. That individual and or groups of people have not faced the common good from others including society. A majority are kept in marginalized positions because people do not care to help or fix the problem. We on the other hand were shown the benefits and the expectation that we serve the common good. Helping people in these positions gives them a sense of hope that the future will change for the better. It also gives them the pleasure of knowing they are not battling through injustices alone. The realization of the amount of good that comes into the world by helping others has deepened the importance I see serving the common good. We are not just there to help someone temporarily and after letting what has and is happening to continue. We are learning and educating ourselves on these social justice issues as to help seek change that can lead to a permanent solution. This is what Gap has taught me the most, understanding that the situations people are in can vary but behind it all we are all humans and we all deserve to be treated as equals in this world.
With the conclusion of this experience reflecting on who I was and who I am now brought me a sense of progression. There are changes on the individual level, group setting, and the concerns I have in this world. I have learned more about who I am, my strengths and weaknesses. Coming in as a strong individually minded person I continued to cultivate that and have seen massive improvements to my confidence and most importantly the ability to push myself further then what I foresaw my capabilities as. Having people around me all the time changed me the most impactful way. Coming into this trip I was introverted to the max, I had no desire to talk to a lot of people and was just fine being alone. While this has not changed drastically, I have seen myself open up to and embrace the uncomfortable aspects of being in a large group. Being able to right now go and talk to someone I don’t know comfortably is a huge change from being uncomfortable just calling up a pizza spot to place an order. Lastly In the beginning I talked about the apathy I had to seek out changes in this world because of my own ignorance of the truth. Throughout this semester it was hammered into us to embrace being uncomfortable- embrace the topics of homelessness, poverty and a whole list of other social justice issues. Leaning in to these tough situations that occur brought on a new way of thinking about the world. Now, strapped with knowledge and passion, I feel almost responsible for what is going on in the world and even my own community. This has led me to break out of the apathetic cycle, to start formulating and doing things that not only hold meaning to me but to others as well.