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February 7, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

The commute home….by Sylvie Lane

256221_3609977847909_190451559_oWorking in San Francisco means that I take public transportation into my office everyday. It’s usually about 40 minutes. Most mornings, I’m usually a bit too bleary eyed to pay much attention to what is going on. This particular morning I was running late; so I knew I had to switch trains instead of taking my usual direct train. It also meant that the second train I had to get on would be really crowded and I would be forced to stand.
I boarded my second train in Oakland along with everyone else that wanted to go to the city. Among them was a guy with one crutch and cast on his leg. As we all rushed to get on the train I watched him look around for a seat. There were no seats. He then looked to the seats in the front of the train reserved for people who need to sit. I again watched as no one would make eye contact with him or get up. This strange dance went on to the next stop. Where someone got up, but the man with the crutches was not fast enough to make to the seat. Again he looked around and no one would get up or make eye contact with him. Finally at the next stop someone got up and he got to sit.
I got off my train a few stops later and went out about my day. Not really giving much thought to this man. A few days later, I was at one of our tutor trainings and I remember making a case for how much just an hour a week of reading with a child will make a difference to their life. I thought about this man. And how someone giving up his or her seat so he could sit would make a difference in his life. How the small things we do can make a profound difference in someone else life.
This is how I approached my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Repair the World, San Francisco, California. I know plenty of people who looked at me like I had two heads when I said I was going to give up a year of my life to do this. I get asked how I manage all the time and I just reply, “I have everything I need, I might not have everything I want.” I looked at it though as giving up something small in comparison to make a much larger impact on someone else life. This thought has become my mantra; I have been known to say it to myself a few times throughout the day on particularly trying days. Most days all I need is my commute home to remind me of the impact I can make.


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