My name is Emily, and I’m a 2013-2014 member of JSC. My placement program was Project Access of Durham County—a non-profit that coordinates healthcare for uninsured patients. After the program, I started medical school, and am currently finishing my final year. JSC helped confirm my decision to pursue medicine and also introduced me to several concepts and values that I continue to grapple with and that continue to guide my actions. Recently, as I prepare for the next step in my career, I have been reflecting on some of these concepts.
Human response to scarcity is an issue that came up for me multiple times during my JSC year of service. “There is enough bounty in the universe for our needs” was a philosophy we visited over and over again—on a personal level at the corps member house, and on a societal level in our placement sites.
Being in an intentional community committed to living simply and frugally taught me that I need less than I think I do. There is enough money in the JSC grocery budget to feed 8 people with a range of dietary restrictions and food traditions. Three cars is more than enough transportation for 8 people if we carpool and plan ahead. There are enough hands to do the weekly chores. Looking back, perhaps the source of our bounty did not always come from the expected sources. For example, in addition to the grocery budget, I remember our “Pounding Party” welcome to North Carolina, in which individuals from the JSC network gifted us with pounds and pounds of non-perishable foods and toiletries. I remember dinners at my mentor’s home in which I received not only wisdom and support, but also plenty of leftovers to bring back to the group. We were incredibly fortunate.
Despite the bounty of the universe, our placement sites with JSC put us face-to-face daily with people who objectively did not have enough. At Project Access, I would sit across a desk from people who were suffering from diseases and could not get the healthcare they needed. In addition to lacking insurance, people often lacked transportation and working phone numbers. During my year in JSC, I came to believe that an important corollary to the mantra “there is enough bounty in the universe,” is that no one should go without. When people lack access to housing, nutritious food, basic healthcare, and a political voice—it is not just an unfortunate circumstance. It is a systemic injustice that requires concrete action in response.
My year with JSC showed me some of the ways in which non-profits, community organizations, and individuals have found creative solutions to address some of these injustices. Through my work at Project Access and through listening to the work of my other JSC members, I learned how organizations found different ways to harness collective skills, energy, and wealth to redistribute the bounty of the world to people with unmet needs. But rather than making me feel complacent about our service, the program curriculum and my fellow interns also challenged me to think about the ways in which my actions and my privilege might be complicit in perpetuating inequality. If there is enough bounty in the universe for everyone, and I have more than enough, what do I owe those who do not have enough? These are hard questions that I will probably always be working through. The built-in priorities of community and reflection that I encountered in the JSC program were invaluable. The program asked us to reflect on not only the question, “why should we help our neighbors?” But also asked “how are our actions (even ones meant to be helpful) hurting our neighbors?” As I start the next step to becoming a medical provider interested in improving health equity, I feel that these are the right questions to be asking.