After the holiday break, the Project CHANGE team reassembled today to catch up and greet the new year. It was also time to revisit the journey of service and claim that we are just about half way, to declare a middle.
We played a game with maps and ships and compasses and asked each member to place themselves on the map. Where are you now? How far have you come? They opened their letter to themselves that they wrote back in September, like the sealed orders a captain opens once he or she is on the open seas. It gave them some bearings, and reminded them of what they expected back then at the start.
Most were on course, and had the wind at their backs and were powering ahead, while a few felt they were a little stuck in the doldrums. Others had found that tropical island in the middle of the ocean that made them feel so content that they did not really want to leave. They had created their own comfort zone. One even felt she was somewhat wrecked and had to salvage some parts of the first part of her service year to build a better craft for the second half. She had had a terrible accident and had been out of action for a few weeks recovering.
What we asked the members was “What do you know now that you did not know then, that you can use to make a difference for the rest of your journey?”
Some members said that they had to readjust their expectations to make it work for them. They had sorted through some of their frustrations and were determined to make the most of the year. Others said that then they joined, they thought it would be all about serving the kids and they did not expect that organizations and staff and relationships would matter quite so much. Some members are feeling the stress of overload. They are being asked to go the extra mile, which they do not mind doing so long as supervisors remember they are AmeriCorps- folks who are serving as a year away from the grind of 40 hour weeks and salaries. They are not just extra staff. AmeriCorps is not meant to get people ready for the working world. It is introducing them to the dignity of service.
Sometimes in the middle, we all need reminding of what Project CHANGE is all about. It is about making a difference, to the people we serve and to the people who are serving. It is not about filling gaps.
Today also marks our first meeting with students at Sligo Middle School and the creation of our own Mentoring program. The kids we got to meet were great and really fun to talk to. We look forward to meeting Diego and Robert and Jose and the girls in two weeks time.
All in all, a good start to a new year. Here’s to a safe and fruitful 2017.