Thoughts on Outreach Events

It just feels weird to walk around town in a bright green Team HBV shirt. You, or rather I, feel very out of place and… poppy. But when I see another flash of green, I instantaneously feel a connection of brotherhood (sisterhood). We’re two oddballs popping to save the world.

Yet, even this fuzzy feeling of sisterhood fades when you stand alone with a sign, a sign everybody looks at, but nobody reads. During the Hepatitis B Awareness Week, I decided to carry on some outreach events at my school- I mean, literally. I made huge signs and hung them around my neck. Wearing that same verdant t-shirt, I held my head high. But my cheeks burned with… awkwardness? Embarrassment? It’s hard to say.

             The sign had a bunch of hepatitis b facts such as “1 in 10 Asians or Pacific Islanders have Hepatitis B.” Great. And “1 in 4 carriers of chronic HBV die without proper treatment.” Impressive. When you think about it, these facts are surprising indeed. But people seemed more interested in me than those facts. And more in me with the funky sign than in me.

             As I walked down the hall looking like one of those card men from Alice in Wonderland, I felt many eyes bearing into the sign, then on my face. “Who is this weirdo?” those eyes seemed to say. And my face burned.

             It’s a good thing to carry out health outreach events especially because I live in a neighborhood where Asian sighting is very common. But why does it feel so awkward? Why is it so embarrassing to walk around school and pass out brochures to a bunch of normal kids? The kids’ suspicious yet amused looks are understandable. Maybe there’s something on my face, my hair. But when I look at them, I feel myself becoming small. I set out to save the world, to become a hero, but I stand in front of those who do not wish to be saved.

             Perhaps it’s the indifference of the community that causes this awkwardness. People are naturally suspicious of fliers. They are scared that I might ask for a donation, or for a minute of their shopping time. They have places to go, I know. People walk busily past my outstretched hands and popping signs. They avert their eyes, preferring not to look upon my embarrassment. Or they hide their own embarrassment with loud laughs and false applauses.

             But there’s a problem with me too. I do not wish to stand out, just as I loathe to think I might be the one in ten.  I do not want to be so aggressively different. Our society demands that we conform, at least outwardly. And when something pops, we push it back down. Yet, there is something squirming in me that makes me want to pop, despite the embarrassment. No, it’s not plain teenage rebelliousness against society. It’s not all about the fuzz of sisterhood either. It’s about the purpose greater than myself, greater than that awkward moment. It’s the purpose that’s achieved every time a death is averted, every time someone completes the course of three shots for HBV. The day we hear that HBV has been eradicated, that purpose will have been accomplished. Then I’ll stop popping… Perhaps.

 This is what I feel/felt as I participated in JRYC outreach events which made me stand out from the crowd. It’s based on last year’s hep b week events at California High School 🙂

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