“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”. This quote by Aesop is posted in the main building of HELP of Ojai, where I have worked for the past 7 months as an Augustinian Volunteer. This quote emulates my time at HELP of Ojai working at the Community Assistance office. Whether it’s taking someone to a doctor’s appointment or a simple smile giving a lunch to one of our homeless clients, I have appreciated the joys of small acts of kindness for others.
I have also seen this desire to help others clearly in the Ojai Community. My big project in the fall was running an Adopt-A-Family program for Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was so great to see the generosity of the donors for this program. I have also been impressed by the participation in our Ojai Valley Food Project, where every other month people from the community bring food to our pantry. It is inspiring to see how many people desire to give a helping hand to those who need it in this community.
Additionally, I have been working at HELP of Ojai’s adult daycare called Oak Tree House, as an activities coordinator. Mostly all our participants have dementia. It has been a great joy working at this program and I have learned some great wisdom from the participants. One of the participants is a 98-year-old woman and she always sheds light on how important it is to enjoy life. Another participant lights up whenever she hears music and is the best at remembering all the lyrics to songs we sing. The smiles of these participants and the great laughs we have shared will always stick with me.
One book that our whole Ventura community has read is “Tattoos on the Heart” by Fr. Greg Boyle. This book is inspirational and has taught me things that I have strived for this year. Fr. G stresses the importance of forming relationships of kinship with others. He writes, “Pema Chondron, an ordained Buddhist nun, writes of compassion and suggests that it’s truest measure lies not in our service to those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them”. I love this quote and it has been a guiding force with my interactions with others this year.
Everyone has their own story. You never know people’s true story until you get to know them and form these bonds of kinship. Whether it’s finding out that one of your clients went to the University of Miami Ohio for college or a man reading you a passage from his devotional book, my eyes have been opened to not judge someone by their outward appearance. At the core we are all human. Genuine kinship with others starts by being open to offering small acts of kindness for the other. If there is one word that illustrates the Augustinian Volunteer program, it is community. I have seen the importance of community not only with my two other community members, but in the greater Ojai community. Communities of kinship are how we form circles of inclusion in this world and where I have found the most joy as an Augustinian Volunteer.
Ventura, CA 2016-2017