Gisselle Flores ’20, Gettysburg —
Opening ourselves up and letting others see some of our biggest mistakes, regrets, and secrets is an understandably difficult task to do. To reveal everything about ourselves is to leave ourselves vulnerable and exposed to possible judgement and criticism. After working on multiple sites in Gettysburg these past few weeks, including Work Ready, ESL, Circles, and the Migrant Education Summer Program, I realized there are various safe spaces in the community that allow people to tell their stories without fear of being judged or ridiculed, which is amazing because it means that more people can share their personal experiences and feel supported.
Initially, I thought that others would see me as an intruder to their safe spaces, but I was surprised to see how willing people are to share their stories. For instance, at Work Ready, the women in the program participate in a writing workshop that encourages them to write about themselves and their past. The first time that I sat in and participated in this workshop, I was in awe to see how many of the women were not only willing to write about some difficult experiences but also share them with each other. The hour set aside for the workshop is always filled with an endless supply of giving and receiving strength and comfort. When one of the participants wrote about some mistakes she made in the past and how that had a negative impact on those around her, the other women applauded her for having the strength to admit her mistakes because that will eventually lead to the start of a new and better path. When another participant shared a poem that she wrote, the women around her complimented the flow of the poem and the thoughtful words she used, which seemed to encourage her to continue this form of expression. Eventually, as I felt welcomed by the women at Work Ready into their safe space, I decided to share some of my own stories during the workshop, but before I started reading, I was worried that my story would not have the same impact that others had, but I shook this thought out of my head because I was not there to compare experiences; I was there to listen, share, learn, and understand new perspectives apart from my own in a new safe space.