I sat down next to Jessica at a Starbucks in Cleveland Park. Originally from Memphis, TN, she lives with her husband in Virginia and works in development for a DC arts organization. She herself was a dancer for many years. “I started when I was four,” she said. “I stopped when I was 25. It was an amazing experience. The arts can change people’s lives – put them in touch with a part of themselves they never even knew existed.”
I discovered that she and I have something in common. We both participated in Rotary international exchange programs. I went as a student to Mexico for one year when I was 16 and she went as a professional to South Africa for one month. “It was life-changing,” she tells me. She stayed with Rotary families throughout the area and got to see the way different people lived. “Sometimes their impressions of Americans were startling,” she mentioned referencing the fact that often times people’s impressions are shaped by what is seen on TV or in movies.
I asked her what some of the lasting impressions in her mind were. She recalled a few. “I remember little kids running behind our van as we entered into the small villages. We also passed a graveyard for AIDS victims. One day we visited this school that had just got water. I remember seeing a kid that couldn’t have been more than eight smoking a cigarette at school.”
Jessica says that she will donate the $10 to the Polaris Project, a Washington, DC based organization whose mission it is to stop human trafficking and modern day slavery.
I asked her how we could lend her a hand. She said that she would like the opportunity to talk with someone who has experience in “dance therapy.” It’s an area that she is interested in exploring given her dance background. So if you or someone you know has experience in this area, give me shout.
I had a “first” happen in this encounter. Instead of me taking a photograph of Jessica, she asked if she could email me one. I said sure.
Don’t forget this Sunday is 10/10/10. Check out Howard Wu’s “Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day!”