I never went looking for 'service,' one could argue that 'service' found me. It all started with a visit from my older brother during my senior year in college. Over a piece of pizza we discussed my anxiety around the decisions I needed to make over the next month as graduation was approaching. My brother, who just returned from a vacation at a National Park, suggested that I explore a Conservation Corps as a potential path (the Utah Conservation Corps to be exact). This suggestion sparked some curiosity and I hit the web, eventually ending-up at the website “cooljobs.com” and stumbling across an AmeriCorps program in Alaska. I emailed paperwork, had a phone interview, got a flight as a graduation gift, and three weeks later I was in Alaska. Alaska was defiantly challenging, but also eye-opening. It not only gave me an opportunity for pause, but also broadened my perspective by exposing me the many ways I could 'serve' a community, ways I could stand-up for what I believed-in, and ultimately to quote Gandhi a way to “be the change [I] wanted to see in the world.” I found the challenges in Alaska to be rewarding but it left me wanting more. So...I signed up for an AmeriCorpsVISTA program in Philadelphia working with the United Way and as part of a national 'service' movement around Martin Luther King Jr. Two months on the job I decided to turn in my application for Peace Corps.
If you told me I was going to be a Peace Corps Volunteer when I graduated college I would have called you crazy. I always thought of Peace Corps Volunteers as a higher 'caliber,' a club I never felt worthy of membership. A two year commitment, the need to learn another language, the cultural adjustment, the potential of getting some exotic disease...the whole thing was always a little crazy to me.
Yet, here I am. An RPCV with an experience thats mine and mine alone. An experience that may take a lifetime to fully understand the depth and breath of its rewards.
This blog has far exceeded any expectations I had for it. When created, I thought it would just be used as an easy way to post messages about me, saving time and money in slow and overcrowded internet cafes. Yet through this selfishness something unselfish managed to blossom. This blog was not only my outlet for frustration and a why for me to process my whole experience, but also a way to bring home and share Malagasy culture with family and friends.
I wasn't a GREAT Peace Corps volunteer, but I can say with confidence that I did my job. This has become apparent this past week through many encounters, and I'm sure it will only continue to reveal itself as time passes. This past week alone it has revealed itself in the frustration in my mothers voice when she couldn't find recent news on the political crisis. It was obvious when my Sister-in-law referred to people from my village by name, people she has never met. It was also revealed in the curiosity of grandparents who asked pointed and insightful cultural questions about life, the Malagasy people, and my stories.
I'm no superman, I just decided to do something when it comes to the things I care about. Anyone can serve... Maybe that is my first lesson out of all this, you don't need to be of any particular 'caliber' to serve. I think Martin Luther King Jr. said it best.
“If you want to be important wonderful! If you want to be recognized wonderful! If you want to be GREAT wonderful! But recognize that 'he who is greatest among you shall be his servant.' That's the new definition of GREATNESS. By giving that definition of GREATNESS it means that everyone can be GREAT, because everybody can SERVE. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's "Theory of Relativity" to serve. You don't have to know the Second Theory of Thermal Dynamics in Physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love, and you can be that servant."
Excerpted from "The Drum Major Instinct", a sermon by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968
In closing, Thank you to everyone who continued to follow-me throughout this crazy little journey. Thank you for the packages, the mail, the kind comments and warm emails. One is only as strong as their 'team,' and I had one heck of a support 'team.' I'm not only blessed, but grateful!