Today's blog comes from Jake McNamara, an AmeriCorps Member who serves on the City Year team at The Leadership Schools at Eugene J. Butler Middle School, a reflection on the art of gratitude while in service.
Having a positive outlook and an attitude of gratitude allows one to have the absolute best City Year experience they can possibly have. For me, focusing on gratitude really opens up my ability to put this experience into perspective, to personally reflect on the work I am doing and why I am doing it. Serving as an AmeriCorps Members allows me to reflect on my life as a whole and be thankful for the people in it and the opportunities that I have been given. Serving my students gives me a chance to see the world from a different perspective and witnessing the struggles and day-to-day obstacles that my students are dealing with allows me to recognize things that I previously may have overlooked in my life, big or small.
My fellow teammates have also expressed their gratitude for having the chance to serve in schools in low-income neighborhoods. AmeriCorps Member Gabe Welch told me “Learning to appreciate the small things will help you get through life’s toughest situations.” Implementing this approach to everyday challenges allows him to look past the negative, often distracting, variables that we face on a daily basis. However, not everyone views and interprets the art of gratitude in the exact same way. Another teammate of mine, Hannah Smith, said, “Being grateful in City Year can be an art sometimes; when the days are hard and long I have to remind myself to be grateful for the opportunity to serve my students and the Jacksonville community.” This is another great example of practicing the art of gratitude at City Year. Gabe and Hannah’s sentiments both establish a sense of understanding, compassion, and empathy for the opportunity bestowed upon them to serve.
One thing I am grateful for at City Year is the access it has given me to work inside a classroom with a great group of students. This opportunity is invaluable for me and a great professional and developmental experience as I would like to pursue a career as a middle or high school guidance counselor. City Year has allowed me to gain first-hand experience assisting in a classroom, being a peer mentor, a role model, and the chance to get a grasp of what a career in the public school system would entail.
City Year has also allowed me to meet all different types of people and personalities I would never have otherwise encountered. At City Year Jacksonville there are so many different, interesting and creative people, and we all share the same passion and desire to help others. Getting to know the diverse community of AmeriCorps Members has allowed me to become more relatable to others and realize that there is no specific template for who I can connect with. Having a shared background or overlapping interests or hobbies is not necessary, all that is needed is a genuine human connection, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Joining City Year changed the priorities in my life almost immediately. Previously, I spent my time worrying about homework, studying for exams, focusing on my friends, and spending time on daily college shenanigans. However, now at City Year Jacksonville I essentially give 100% of myself to my students, my team, and the service we provide as AmeriCorps Members. I have fully invested myself to the cause which has met committing to the up’s and downs that come with it. It is an incomparable experience, and for that I am grateful.