Friday, September 14, 2007

My past on the doorstep

Me, circa 1997 showed up on my doorstep last week in a Fed Ex box.

I had been in college for four years and still unsure of where I was headed professionally. I was active (maybe too active, my transcripts will show) in the volunteer program that year, and was curious about Americorps. I ended up on an airplane that landed in Charleston, SC in August of '97. I was a member of the Americorps*National Civilian Community Corps. That * is important. It's a government program, and it's in all of the literature and it was on my uniform, so * it is.

As a Corpsmember, I was on a team of 12 other folks aged 18-24. Our campus was on an abandoned Naval Base where the border patrol trained (imagine the ideological differences that came up in a common cafeteria where do-gooder hippie-types ate next to guys who wore t-shirts with the cartoon of a sombrero wearing mouse running from uniformed man and shouting "Andale!"). We did service projects in the realms of the environment, human safety, disaster relief, education, and other unmet human needs (again, government lingo). We served the SE region of the US. It was a great experience during which I learned how to frame a house, identify and kill specific invasive plant life on a National Seashore, spell Florida correctly (no kidding, I am a terrible speller) while tutoring 4th graders on their spelling lists, and pack for a two month trip on 20 minutes notice.

I made some great friends who were my travelling family. We were like the Partridges - but with hammers and shovels instead of guitars and drums - travelling the country spreading idealistic cheer and doing good works. Some of my old teammates were at our wedding. Some wanted to be but couldn't make the cross country trip. Some I've lost touch with, and I'm okay with that. At that time in our lives, the team was very important; we lived, travelled, and worked together, that leads to overexposure that will either lead to homicide or life long friendships.

So, back to the FedEx package. The Charleston campus is closing, leaving 3 or 4 other bases active in the country. The closing is somewhat mysterious, and when I questioned staff, they couldn't say much. I'm not sure they know much. In a room on the campus were probably thousands of binders. And in each binder was a portfolio that a team made when a project was completed. Someone from the Charleston campus unexpectedly sent me the portfolio from our project at a Charleston elementary school. In it are our reflections about our 2 months there, photos of our team with the classes we worked with, an Internet training manual for teachers, designed by 2 teammates who weren't excited to work with youngin's.

I had written about Marcus, the 4th grader who wasn't doing well in class, but not doing poorly enough to qualify for special ed. I remembered being very touched by the pride he developed in himself as we worked together. I wrote about his smile when he told me he scored an A on a test.

All of these people in my life who have helped shape me: like a river forming its banks. I'm remembering, I'm grateful. The portfolio reminded me to get more active in my community again. It reminded me of how I've grown in the past 10 years. It's spurred me to send out some emails to old teammates...

"... remember when we couldn't afford to go home for Thanksgiving, so we ate Thanksgiving dinner at an Irish pub? ... when we swam in the Atlantic 2 weeks before Christmas at night and walked back to the bunkhouse singing carols? How are you old friend? Where are you? Just a note to say I'm thinking of you on this 10th anniversary of our meeting, and smiling."

1 comment:

Em said...

What a sweet, sweet post.

Thanks for sharing.