On Friday I’ll be giving a keynote type of speech to a group of AmeriCorps VISTA members. If you don’t know what that is you can look it up here. I was contacted about two months ago by the person organizing the event. When we spoke on the phone she mentioned that someone I knew through adjunct teaching at a local college, felt I would be “inspirational”. I thought to myself; me…inspirational?
I didn’t know exactly what she meant so we decided to meet to talk it over. What I found out in our conversation was that she would like me to talk about my career path; how did my years in an AmeriCorps program influence my future choices? What did the experience of doing a year of service mean for the AmeriCorps members who worked with me? Okay, now I’m thinking, I can do that; no problem. I’ve had two weeks to plan for this speech and today it hit me, I have nothing ready… but I do have an idea.
When I got home from work today, without taking my coat off, I went down to the basement. I needed to sift through a few boxes before I found what I was looking for. When I was an AmeriCorps project director we had members who wanted to do a second year of service complete an application process. Not like the first one to get into the program, but one that we hoped we could gauge their true commitment to another year of living below the poverty line and working a crazy number of hours every week. One of the four questions on the application was: What do you know today about yourself, your community, your world, that you didn’t know on your first day of service.
In the box in the basement I found several years worth of answers to draw ideas from for my presentation. I’m so happy that I held onto these writings. I’m moved beyond words as to the depth and breadth of responses. However, one theme though runs through all of them: a commitment to making the world a better place than how they found it. It may sound trite to the average reader, but when I think about all that’s given up by someone when they are in service to others; I think…that’s what is inspirational.
AmeriCorps members give a year of service to communities in need. The are not your average volunteer, they commit to full-time, year-long projects. I’ve thanked my own AmeriCorps members in earlier post. Today I want to thank all the AmeriCorps members who have done something to make my community and state a better place over the twenty year history of AmeriCorps.
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