My Year of Service

Brina 1

I never thought that the support I could provide in a broken system was so necessary and significant, but it was.

As I near the end of my time here at Thrive DC, I am trying to find the space to think about and reflect on this past year. Through all of the stress, chaos, and general influx of activity that encompasses my life, I know one thing: That my experience here has been invaluable and has changed me as a person.

I am trying to write about these eleven months in a way that is genuine and feels authentic to me, and in order to do that, I’m going to use language that I feel accomplishes that. So here are experiences I have immersed myself in at Thrive DC this year that I never thought I would engage in:

Things I Never Thought

  • I never thought I would say good morning and smile at ~200 individuals and at first, virtual strangers,  on a regular basis.
  • I never thought that I would remember all of their names.
  • I never thought I would be the person who had all (or at least a lot) of the answers, or even the person people looked for first (When can I get my referral? Where will it come from? Do you have maxi pads that are a different brand than these? Are there vegetarian options available? When does the office open? When are you available? When is __ available? Can I get my laundry done if I haven’t signed up? And so on…)
  • I never thought I would lead a Comedy Group and a Garden Group for people who seek support and comfort through humor, joy, nature, and community.
  • I never thought I would work with a small staff to provide a wide range of services to hundreds of low-income and homeless folks in a city that was new to me.
  • I never thought that I would meet, be inspired by, and bond with co-workers who felt frustrated with me, celebrated accomplishments with me, and immersed themselves in service with me.
  • Brina 2

    I never thought that I would have the opportunity to meet hundreds of volunteers, some of whom I saw once, some of whom I formed deep connections with and became friends with.

I never thought that helping others and working with clients to build themselves up would be my motivation for getting up and doing it all over again.

  • I never thought it would be so hard for me to leave at the end of the work day because I was so ingrained in the clients I served, but it was.
  • I never thought that people who I hadn’t known my whole life could become such an integral part of shaping my future, but they did.
  • I never thought that I would grow to appreciate my privilege in life: what I have been given and what I have been able to give to others.
  • I never thought I would teach about my experiences to people who wanted to learn about them.
  • I never thought these people would become a part of me, but they are.
  • I never thought I would find deep and essential meaning in my life from focusing on the importance and value in others’ lives, but I have.
  • I never thought that I could feel so deeply about the people I help serve, whether the emotions were positive, negative, or somewhere outside of those categories.
  • I never thought that my advocacy for desperate people stuck in  bureaucratic systems would make an impact, but it did.
  • I never thought I would get so much fulfillment, happiness, and growth from my year of Service, but I did.
  • I never thought I would challenge my prior assumptions, experiences, understanding, and philosophies, but I did.

And Yet…

Yet all of these actions, feelings, thoughts and experiences that I never thought I would engage in became an impactful and necessary part of my journey.  I know now that although there are things about my work at Thrive DC that will slip my mind years from now, bits and pieces of memories that will fade away, my time here has reinforced my mission in life: helping and caring for others in a genuine, empowering, and just way.

No matter where my path takes me in the future, I know now that there is no going back from that realization. I will not forget the wonderful  people I have served: the people that have taught, inspired, and appreciated me along with the people that have challenged me, pushed me, and changed my mind again and again.

I am honored to have served at Thrive DC as a counselor, teacher, student, co-worker, friend, mentee, and partner in creating a more compassionate and giving world. For this, I am forever thankful.



Brina Chu

Brina Chu