Big Citizenship: Breaking Down The Mold You Put People Into

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Alan Khazei has a great book out about the importance of Citizenship, and expands it in so many important areas. Below is an excerpt about breaking down the mold you put people into. In it, he describes Stephen, who was active in service for City Year. He first thought that, since Creighton was from a high class society, he must be removed from the world. But through City Year, they developed the closest of friendships based on mutual care, respect and giving.

We’re all learning about how we can let go of what we think. Take them out of the mold. Break your own misconception. This is something we have to let go, let go, let go of again and again, so that we accept people fully for who they are in this present day… and not where they came from and what we think.

Thank you, Alan, for such a positive example of breaking down what we think and accepting the care and love that people offer in this present moment.

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“Big Citizenship” Excerpt

Stephen also explained… how he had become best friends with someone that, were it not for City Year, he never would have met. Creighton Reed was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Preparatory Academy and on his way to Harvard. He came from a world of privilege and opportunity entirely alien to Stephen. Before Stephen got to know Creighton he had assumed that all “preppies” were stuck up and didn’t care at all about what went on in the city or its neighborhoods. But Creighton was funny, passionate, and full of concern for what was happening in those parts of Boston City Year was working in. His very presence in the corps forced Stephen to rethink all his stereotypes about people. Now he was closer to Creighton than he was to most of his old gang. And Creighton had learned just as much from Stephen.

The two friends shared an apartment with three other City Year corps members in Somerville. They called themselves the “fearsome fivesome frat.” Stephen told a story to illustrate how he came to rethink his preconceptions in relation to his friendship with Creighton:

“Creighton was a big guy—6’2’’ and could bench press 350 pounds. He was always eating—his favorite snack was to dip raw spaghetti in honey. One night, I got really sick. I had a really high fever, and Creighton heard me stumbling around in the hallway and came out to see what was going on. He took one look at me and put me to bed with a wet cloth on my head. I remember waking up a few hours later to a dark room, and there was Creighton, sitting on the floor next to the bed, dipping raw spaghetti into honey. I asked him what he was doing there and he said he was just making sure I was okay. I was 21 years old when I went to do City Year and I had a perspective that was formed by my previous experiences, but it was things like that that broke down my preconceptions. I could no longer say: ‘I think an Exeter kid is this’ or ‘I think a Harvard kid is that.’ Because I knew Creighton, and he was so much more than that.”

Read more on Alan’s website

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