“Break your mirrors!!! Yes indeed — shatter the glass. In our society that is so self-absorbed, begin to look less at yourself and more at each other. Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about your own.”–R. Sargent Shriver
Sargent Shriver, founder of the Peace Corps, had a tremendous impact on my life. When he answered President Kennedy’s call to form the Peace Corps in 1961, he succeeded in creating a program that young college graduates could utilize to change and shape the world in which we live. In 2006, I was one of those graduates, fresh out of college, naïve and not quite sure what was next in life, but eager and ready to serve. And off I went to China, where I spent two years serving, growing, changing, and pursuing my idealism.
Mr. Shriver, the Peace Corps patriarch, died on January 18. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but as I spent time reading about him and his inspiring legacy of selflessness and philanthropy, my heart was heavy as I thought about the loss of such a strong pillar of service. Everything that I read spoke beautifully about his dedication to fighting inequality and injustice, and I feel honored to have worked as a part of one of his programs.
My roommate, Jackie, a fellow RPCV, and I went to pay our respects to Mr. Shriver and his family at a public wake in D.C. I was expecting the atmosphere to be somber and serious, but it was surprisingly light-hearted and joyful. Scores of people were there, crowding the church, and I soon understood why the mood was so light; it was truly a celebration of his life and his tireless work. I met Mr. Shriver’s children and grandchildren, and when I introduced myself as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, they immediately thanked me for my service and asked me where and when I had served. In talking with his family, it was obvious that his charm, his passion, and his commitment to service will survive and thrive. His light and love for others was radiating through all of them. One of his grandsons, a freshman in college, was already aiming to join the Peace Corps after graduation, and I have no doubt that he will experience the same success and growth that I experienced.
I never met Mr. Shriver, but after meeting his family and learning more about his life and work, I now feel as if he’s an old friend. As a nurse, I aim to work in much the same capacity as Mr. Shriver did, to stamp out injustice and inequality, to create communities of caring, and to serve the under-served. I honor and appreciate his commitment to service and will strive to continue his legacy.