I was 18 and had just gone to college. I grew up in a tiny Maine town (Old Town). It is a nice place, but was very safe and quite uniform in character. Suffice it to say that I was rather naive, optimistic and very unworldly. Naturally, I believed I was mature and ready to be king of the world.
I enjoyed my first semester of college and when Thanksgiving break arrived I took a Greyhound bus back to Maine. On the way I stopped at a NYC bus station and was there around 3 am. I had never been in such a situation before and saw people picking food out of the garbage cans and other people sleeping under cardboard. I had heard of homeless people before, but I had not experienced it myself. While people obviously just pass on by these sights everyday without a thought, that degree of suffering and poverty in a nation of vast wealth and resources shocked and sickened me. The irony of people eating garbage as the rest of the country prepared to gorge itself on turkey, pies and cranberry sauce was not lost on me. I decided that I would be a success so that I would never meet that fate. I also vowed that I would take a path that would enable me to help other people avoid that fate.
While many other factors were involved, this moment set me on the path to being an educator. I confess that I have made no great changes in social justice nor have I been able to make the world fair and equitable. But I have helped people stick with their education and succeed in life. I have also done what I can to instill in them a sense of justice and responsibility towards themselves and others. I do believe a better world is possible-but it is all up to us. We make the world we live in, enjoy and endure.