For the sake of anonymity, names have been changed.
Two times a week, I embark on the hour-long, three bus, cross-Portland quadrant journey to my internship. I’m currently a kitchen intern at an extended care facility for people that are HIV+, and I am able to find so much meaning in my work. I am a strong believer that food has the power to heal people and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve gotten to be able to provide that for people in need of it. There are less than 20 residents at this facility, so I’ve gotten to know each of them in some way or another.
As in any service jobs, some interactions with the people you are serving are more positive than others, and things fluctuate. This minor inconsistency makes my days at work very interesting and I find a lot of enjoyment in it. One resident, Ethan, has always been a constant for me. He has a lot of underlying conditions (along with HIV) that could make him a really negative person; with a lot of validity to that. Each day, I go into the volunteer office, sign in, and put on my apron. Within the first hour of me being there, Ethan is at the swinging door of the kitchen asking me how my morning is going and thanking me for all my hard work.
I don’t know what I’m going to cook, who I’m going to work with, what time I’m going to leave at the end of the day, but I know I’m going to have an amazing interaction with Ethan. This makes all of the scary inconsistencies manageable and even enjoyable. When I think about the people I’ve met on my gap year on a broad scale, Ethan isn’t the first, second, or third person I would think of. I would more think of the friends I’ve made and the connections I’ve formed. Upon reflection, I can recognize that my nine months in Portland would not be the same without him.