Part 4: Finding My Own Social Capital

One question that comes up when talking about the trip, whether it be from people in the Valley or friends back in Charlottesville is “How is it you aren’t/weren’t afraid?” To be honest, afraid is a bit of an understatement; I was terrified. On such a long, complex trip to a place I’d never been before, it seemed an infinite amount of things could go wrong. However, the thing that scared me the most, even more than car failure, sketchy motels, and back alley thieves, was the lack of control I had over the success (or failure) of my project. Whether or not I was able to hold successful interviews with organizers, and actually be able to pull useful information from these interviews was, despite all my preparation, in the hands of the interviewees. And just like getting turned down for a big date, the fear of rejection can be crippling. But at the end of the day, I found myself making phone call after phone call, through shaky hand and tense nerves, asking for the chance to learn from some of the bravest organizers around. In an ironic twist, my attempt to gain insight into the social capital of Rio Grande Valley organizers would not be possible without the mutual presence one of the strongest measures of social capital: trust. Trust, from the organizers, that a youth from 1600 miles away wouldn’t misuse the information he was given. Trust, that the organizers wouldn’t stand me up for interviews or attempt to mislead me for personal gain. And I found out that, if you’re willing to give your trust, your empathy, and your intellectual inquiry, most people won’t turn you away.