Justin was a complete stranger to me before we met for the project, so, when I was waiting to meet him, I had no idea who or what to look for. To my luck, we found each other fast and immediately I got to see just what Justin was all about fairly quickly. We were in a busy area, so he offered that we could go into his club office; he had a key since he holds a leadership position to the club. When I asked him what club office, he answered with “clown nose club”. Well, “What in the world”….. Those were my first thoughts; Is he a clown? What is this? After I asked, he explained that clown nose club is a club that does random acts of kindness for the campus. They are a club full of students that simply have ambitions to lift and make peoples days with simple acts of genuine kindness, whether they are doing volunteer work/ community service, or simply doing random goofy gestures on campus just to make people laugh, these are students who are taking time out of their day, just to make people smile. In other words, I immediately realized I was standing with possibly one of the most selfless people Penn State had to offer, and Justin’s greatness didn’t stop there.
When we got started with the drawing, my time with Justin was formatted quite differently than those I had done prior. Usually, I ask the strangers questions while I draw them so I can captivate them as much as possible. When it came to Justin, he took the role as leader. Immediately he started asking me question after question, but he hid it so well, it is only looking back that I realize it. I was still getting a full sense of who he was through his reactions to what I was saying and how he would spin off of it. He would let me talk, then always give input right after. As a matter of fact, though he was the one asking me questions, I was getting an even better glimpse of who he was. I was able to see his interests, because one would only ask questions that spark their interest. I was able to see his reactions and opinions. He introduced me to seeing that in order to know someone, sometimes it isn’t asking that will show their truth, but their honest reaction to a moment.
As time went by, though we went into the office for more of a private space, members of the club kept filing in one after another. They were all wonderful people each with great personalities, so this was fun and even more beneficial for me, but even more, this situation showed me another side of Justin. When I say it showed me another side of him, it wasn’t because he acted different in front of familiar faces, as a matter of fact he, himself, stayed the exact same, but it showed me a side of him through his reaction of expectation in me. Additional people watching in the room definitely could have put more pressure on me, and made me nervous…. However, Justin continued with his questions, so honestly, and out in the open, just the same as if we were still in private. His tone of voice and facial expressions didn’t even change. It was such an honest moment, almost reading off to me something like “why would, or why should anything change if more people are around?” It was such an open book moment for him, and he carried it so well, that I felt like I shouldn’t feel any different.. So the portrait and conversations continued.. And in the end, that is exactly what I realized Justin’s motive in life is; An Open Book.
Justin is a young man who likes to listen, and “read” people and create situations for opportunity to read reactions. He’s part of a club that literally gives selflessly to others, just to receive the reaction of another’s happiness. He asked me questions and expected me to maintain an open heart and feel no pressure under a crowd because he TRULY believes that stories are meant to be shared. Why wouldn’t I answer his questions..? Why should I feel timid in a crowd? That is what I read off of Justin because he made is so obvious and even quoted that “There is very little, we can’t learn from one another.” He so much believes and even wears the value of honesty and sharing. Stories are meant to be shared… and sometimes we learn most if we listen. Once we realize the value of our stories and personal stories in general, we then see the true power of listening as well as drop the timid shelter of holding them in. I feel as though sometimes society is so private. We are always being told “Be careful what you say to people” and “Why would you tell him/her that!?” We are even always being told to keep thoughts to ourselves or in general “Keep it to yourself.” …But sometimes things expand to even greater purposes if we share them… People either take your story, or leave it, and if you put your story out there, at least there is an opportunity for someone to take it. If you keep it sheltered, there it will remain, and Justin showed me that there are people out there who are eager to learn. Justin showed me an answer of why wouldn’t I, shouldn’t I, or why not? No matter what, someone learns. Stories are meant to be shared. We don’t create them to let them dwell and sit within us. I couldn’t have said it any better … there really is very little, if anything at all, we cannot learn from one another. And through Justin, I saw the reality in this. He learns love and happiness and the capacity of kindness in a human heart through his club and reading people’s reactions and emotions, and he adores lessons through listening. He asked me questions and I know he took in all I had to say, and even most, I am so lucky to have shared time with him, because in the end, he proved me the importance of not being afraid to share.