I met him when I first started in 1991. My Mom had just been diagnosed with cancer and so for the six months that she lived, he actually helped me prepare for her death. Like here is a man, who he himself was living with a terminal illness, and at the time when life expectancy for people with HIV was not great. It was before all the drug treatments. He saw something in me that was worth tending to. You know, he knew that I coming in young, fresh, and full of energy. You know, as an activist. My friend, Ted, was tested HIV positive and I was wanting to be involved. And I think he saw what a big heart I had and I think he saw if I wasn’t companioned well on the journey I was on—with my Mom and Ted—I was not going to be able to sustain doing this work. And I think he saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.
Click play to hear a full interview with Betty Ann below:
I like to walk the talk so I was challenging myself that I need to volunteer too. So I looked into our hospice program and they had a client that they wanted to see if I would go and visit him. So I am like, “Sure, I am happy to make a change in someone’s life.” And I started to visit him and his wish was to visit the Sikh temple once a week on Saturday mornings. “Yes, sure, I can definitely drive you there.” And there was one catch, he wanted to go at 7 a.m. on Saturdays. So I was like, “OK, yes, I can manage that.” And so we started doing it. So I got to tell you, on some Friday nights coming home from work or had a party or something, I was like, man, I don’t think I’d be able to wake up tomorrow morning. Maybe I should just call him. Then there was one time that I actually did call, I was just so tired, and I was hoping we could skip tomorrow. I called and the phone was ringing and I was feeling so bad and I was thinking maybe I should hang up and then he picked up. He’s like, “Hello,” I am like, “Uncle, it’s Charanjit,” and he said, “Oh, Charanjit, I was looking forward to tomorrow and I just can’t wait.” And I was like, oh man, I guess I see you tomorrow. And I hung up and when I go there he would stand on his curb and he was having such a smile on his face. And he just lit right up and that would be my sunrise in the morning. And I remember driving him there and seeing how much gratitude he had, how much appreciation he had just so I can accompany him. It’s really something I never forget. I always think to myself that I went to change someone’s life, but my life got changed instead.
Click play to hear a full interview with Charanjit below:
We took them to a psychiatrist because at first, I thought maybe I am crazy. Like, what is this that I am searching for that I don’t have and that I believed to be different? The psychiatrist said, “Well, let me meet the children and then meet your husband.” So the kids came to the office with my husband at the time and she said to them. “Now, describe your mother to me. And now describe your father.” My second child said to the psychiatrist, “You see that book on the shelf? That’s my father. You see the paper scatter across your desk? That’s my mother.” And I thought, what a brilliant analogy! And so at the end of this conversation, the psychiatrist said, “So I hear you said you don’t really understand why your parents are together and that they are really so different that they would be happier on their own parenting you.” And that’s how it ended.
Click play to hear a full interview with Anita below:
I was an at-risk teenager. Got pregnant when I was 15 and I had my son when I was 16 so at that point, it was like I faced a lot of challenges. Going to school. I was still in high school. I went to school straight up until my due day. My son came two weeks late and I was still in school. Teachers told me to go home but in my mind, I had this fear of not being successful because that was what society labeled that population as people that have children at the young age are less likely to be successful. That’s not 100% true because I know that I came above those odds but for me, it was challenging.
Click play to hear a full interview with Annakim below:
We were sitting in the lecture hall at the end of class and he said, “Nobody listens anymore.” And I am like, “What do you mean?” Then he said, “Nobody really listens to anybody. They just kind of listen to respond. They don’t listen to understand.” It hit me like a ton of bricks and I think that’s the one thing I can point out that’s kind of instill in myself that I have to actually listen to people.
Click play to hear a full interview with Rashme below:
I was left with three kids, totally unexpected. I had to get back to work and my minister was on the board for Home for Pregnant Teens. I took this position as the volunteer coordinator and I had never felt so valued. All my other work experience seemed so… not worthless, but nothing was as important as these girls gravitating towards me because I understood. I had coped as a single parent and they just loved being around me and I loved helping them. At the end of my contract, they actually got a petition and got people to sign to keep my job, but there was no funding for it. That was where my love for non-profit started. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else after that but working for an organization that doesn’t care about the bottom line as much as how many people they can help.
Click play to hear a full interview with Debra below:
My grandmother used to tell me, “Be truthful to yourself. Be kindful.” She also said, “If you can do that, your life will be a whole.” The other thing she also said is, “Continue studying, continue learning new things because there are always new things to learn. It doesn’t matter if you are 70.” To be successful, that is something she did and her husband, my grandfather, did as well. Looking at those two and seeing how they taught my parents and then looking at them and what they have done, so now I will do the same with my kids. I hope my kids could see through my eyes how I look at them. It’s… it’s so beautiful.
Click play to hear a full interview with Arujuhna below:
When I was presented with it, it was a total surprise. We were at the Sky Zone. They gave us tickets and we had a great time. We got some pizzas and I got this really nice Sprite. For some reason that Sprite tasted really good that day. And then they gave me ten thousand dollars. I was blown away. But the people I was with, that was the best part, because they were happy for me. I was like “That’s insane!” They had no hidden feelings. It was just so pure, and they were excited for me. And then I was excited. It was just genuine. That was one of the best days of my life!
Click play to hear a full interview with Arenne below:
I broke my ankle in 2004 and it was really the first time in a very long time that I was on the receiving end of absolute kindness. Because I am good at being kind and taking care of others, but this time other people were stepping forward and taking care of me. The blessing of receiving such tender kindness from a retired nurse who would get up in the morning and drive over to my house, get me dressed, give me breakfast, and get me organized for the rest of the day because she knew my husband was overwhelmed and he couldn’t do it. I had no way to get up to go to the bathroom and the only person I could call was my landlady and she came and took me to the toilet. So it was an absolute lesson in surrender and learning how to receive.
Click play to hear a full interview with Chrystalla below:
Being a mother is the hardest job, I’d say, in the world. Because sometimes you are by yourself and you don’t have someone else to kind of bring your child up. Obviously, being a teenager, I was not easy to put up with. And when you are young, you want to experience different things. You think that you’ve grown. You think you know everything. Obviously, that’s not always the case. My mother and I, we have had our ups and downs, but some of the things I’ve done as a teenager because I thought I knew better, that kind of disappointed her. I haven’t been the best child, but I am glad that we mended our relationship and that we can move forward. And I am seeing her attitude towards her job regardless of how difficult it gets, it’s what has helped mold me and helped change my mindset when it comes to giving back to the community.
Click play to hear a full interview with Tehillah below: