Ashley Danna

When I was a kid, I knew I wanted to change the world – no matter how insignificant that change may be. Just like any other millennial, I wanted to make my mark. My impact. My legacy. It terrified me to think that I would leave this world in the same condition as it was when I arrived. In my opinion, there is something to be said for being a millennial. Sometimes we have a difficult time grasping reality because our dreams may often be out of reach as we grew up being told we can do anything and be anyone we wanted to be. Yet, we are so resilient given the amount of exposure to injustice and violence through easily accessible media and news outlets. 

My “VISTA sista” Sara and I recently went to see the new movie 13 Hours where we were exposed to the true story of injustice and violence in Libya, and the detrimental effects it had on the United States in 2012. In countries like Libya, Americans are either trying to mitigate the violence and/or protect our own country. But as we learned, our efforts may not prevail. Seeing this story come to life on screen brought us both an overwhelming sense of helplessness for people living in countries that are not safe. Above all else, these people remain in their country surrounded by injustice and violence without much to do except fear the unknown.

As I’m over halfway through my 2nd year as a VISTA, I’m already familiar with these moments of feeling helpless about issues out of my control. I have met many VISTA members who joined AmeriCorps because they believed they could be that mark. That impact. That legacy. Just like me. Most days I feel like, as a VISTA, I’m making a difference and fulfilling my purpose. Some days I’m humbled by seemingly how insignificant I am in comparison to the injustice and violence that is still prevalent today.

 John F. Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

 As a VISTA, this is what I remind myself of frequently because as VISTAs we are, to a certain capacity, THE mark. THE impact. THE legacy. Nevertheless there is so much more to be done, and if we can be that seemingly insignificant ripple of hope, we can create a million other ripples. My hope is to continue to be that ripple of hope at the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, providing resources for nonprofits that are also trying to be that ripple of hope. Because of these collective ripples, I can sometimes see the change that is building up our people; our community; and maybe one day – our world.