My name is Calvin Lyster. While making art is one of my main hobbies, I felt attending college straight after high school wouldn’t give me the satisfaction I need because I hadn’t yet found a real passion. I joined this gap year program to interact with different kinds of people, experience living more Jewishly, and explore different paths of life. So far, I have definitely not been disappointed.
Recently, it’s come to my attention that the Tivnu program is winding down, which is genuinely alarming to all of us, and just generally very surprising. It seems time flies when you’re working as a volunteer at three internships five days a week, as the saying goes. As the year comes spectacularly to a close, I continually reflect on the lessons I’ve learned and new ones I encounter every day at my jobs. Skills I wouldn’t have thought were useful to me continue to make themselves apparent in different ways.
A couple of weeks ago, I was making breakfast at Portland Homeless Family Solutions, a day shelter that provides three meals, quiet rooms, technology, and housing/parenting classes for families in need. It’s one of my favorite internships, as I get to work with children and adults, as well as practice my cooking and cleaning on a larger scale. One of the families that makes use of the facilities is primarily Spanish speaking, with very little English knowledge. At one point, they were having trouble finding something they wanted, and were talking with each other in Spanish about how to say certain key words in English.
I speak fluent Spanish, having been taught it throughout kindergarten all the way to 8th grade, and started speaking to the family in Spanish, asking them what they needed and how I could assist. The family looked relieved and once we found what they were looking for, they thanked me kindly and went about the rest of their day.
Being able to put my skills into practice in a physical situation where I could directly see the results of my labor was incredibly gratifying. Helping real families with real needs using my own intelligence and power is an important experience, because it shows you how much you can achieve under just your own steam, and how many lives you can touch with the knowledge you already have.
I don’t think I can adequately sum up the lessons I’ve learned thus far at this program. Tivnu has been a veritable spiderweb of moments for me to use life skills in directly beneficial ways and also explore new courses of charitable action. I am expanding and polishing my briefcase of social justice outlets each day with the presence of my internships, educational explorations and just casual discussions that happen around our house because of the work that we do. I am actively engaged with the world at the moment and I appreciate the opportunities given so that I could experience this lifestyle of awareness. If I continue bringing this perspective into my adult life I can change the world around me and the world within me.