Service to Others, Not Resume Building
I was discouraged to read the opinion-page article "Peace Corps Still Best Bang for Our Buck" (Jan. 27). I believe it misses the point. While I agree with the message that the Peace Corps can provide volunteers with excellent skills for future employment, the article takes this too far.
As a youth advocate, educator, and former community development worker in Zimbabwe, I have found the self-serving attitude underlying many Americans' altruism to be very troublesome. I run into more and more people who engage in humanitarian service as a rsum builder. This is unfortunate when what social services need more than anything is commitment. When the Peace Corps is viewed only as a stepping stone to something else, there's the risk that more attention is paid to one's own aspirations than to those people or situations one is trying to help.
The author gives sweeping praise to the Peace Corps for turning out creative problem-solvers. I would argue that in many cases it's the individual and not the experience that determines this result. Overseas, I met a number of disillusioned development workers who opted to hide from the realities of their challenging placements. Back home, some veterans, with their time abroad behind them, have chosen more self-centered and profitable paths that set them at odds with "embracing differences."
The comment that the "ongoing test of the Peace Corps is what you do with that experience when you get home" may be true in some respects, but I fail to see how this relates to the example of the Peace Corps veteran who came home and started a successful business. I question whether commercialism and entrepreneurship here in the US are signs of the Peace Corps' success. If they are, we have strayed from its original mandate of peace and friendship to asking what this experience can do for us. We should aim higher than that.
Romania's religious revival
In response to the opinion essay "Romanians Still Culturally Caged" (Jan. 9): I would like to add a more positive footnote. In 1995 I was a high school English teacher in Braila, Romania. I observed two very different outlooks on life - one from my students' perspective and one from their parents.
The parents, having lived most of their adult lives in the most controlled and secretive communist country in Eastern Europe, were bitter, discouraged people who had lost all faith in anything. They could see no bright future, having spent most of their lives under communist rule. The young people, on the other hand, were very optimistic and looked forward to a better Romania. The thing that intrigued me most was their deep interest in spiritual matters and their inquisitiveness about Western religions.
This was quite evident in a class project where each student was given a copy of The Christian Science Monitor. They were to read the whole newspaper and select one article to present to the class. More students selected the religious article than any other.
A religious revival is evident in Romania. When traveling throughout the country, I found many missionaries from several denominations and beautiful new churches being built (undoubtedly with donations from Western churches). From my observations, Romania's future lies in the children - they have seen the light and are full of hope.
Charlotte Kinney Geer
A nonsports fan discovers 'Elway'
I am not a sports fan. I don't follow the lives of famous athletes. However, I do read the front page of the Monitor each day, to see which stories I want to follow up inside. I surprised myself when I completed "Elway on Elway: A Father's Perspective" (Jan. 28). This was a superbly written piece that captured my interest from beginning to end, not only from a human interest angle, but yes, from a sports angle as well.
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