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Diversity Statement - The Appalachian Mountains
I was raised in an ultra-conservative Pentecostal Holiness church in the Appalachian Mountains. There were snake handlers in our church. It was thought that it tested one's faith to pick up a poisonous snake -- God wouldn't allow it to bite you if you had faith. However, I was always afraid that to pick up a snake would greatly increase God's propensity to smite me via death by snakebite. I did not have enough faith. I've never encountered a miracle -- I've never had a dream come true. I therefore can't help but lack faith.
To my great fortune, I've had many people help me along the way who didn't have to and who stood nothing to gain by helping me. Teachers gave me after-hours help; when I didn't know how I would pay for school, the financial aid office gave me a scholarship. These people helped me for no reason other than the mere fact that I am a human being, worthy of help when in need. Although I didn't have faith, they gave me hope.
This is why I have worked at a local homeless shelter for the past two years. I feel like I can do the same thing -- help a person or two merely on the basis of our shared humanity. I enjoy paying back some of the help society has given me. I teach a computer class at the shelter, but everyone gets free therapy on the side. Most of those people aren't different in some essential way from the homed or those who have jobs, but life has often dealt them a losing hand to begin with. I tell them that I also had a losing hand, but I never gave up hope. Often, hope is all I had -- but it was enough to keep me pressing onward.
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