By Shea Lonergan, City Year AmeriCorps member on the Bakersville Elementary School Team
As a City Year corps member, you quickly learn how little time there is beyond service. We have spent the past three months living and breathing City Year, and dedicating our time to serving the Manchester community, its schools, and its people. Monday through Thursday we are ready to serve with smiles on our faces for anyone we encounter – our teammates, students, and partner teachers. Our Fridays, spent in the City Year office, hold time for trainings, leadership development, and reflection on our service. This past Friday, the Bakersville Elementary School Team hosted a Community Meeting that prompted us all to reflect on our past experiences with service and our current commitment to making a transformational change.
My team chose to define service as the act of serving oneself, another, or a cause with the intention of betterment for all; it is not only the act of providing for others, but also the recognition of the benefits that may be gained by oneself. This definition of service was considered in every portion of the Community Meeting. As a site, we wrote down joys from our previous experience with service and we gathered to ripple these joys to each other. My teammate, Brian, shared his life’s work, a personal testimony of his life, and how he has been touched with service in his life by friends, family, programs and schools, which in turn inspired him to join City Year. Elizabeth’s interview with alumna Jessica Lambert ‘15 revealed that service can be as effortless as smiling to a stranger. An appreciations card game gave context for us all to show appreciation for ourselves and for others in service. And the meeting concluded with a donut eating contest reminding us that we can have a good time as we are all serving as one City Year.
The book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, served as an overall theme for the meeting and helped my team reflect upon our individual past experiences as the receiver of service, and our current commitment to how we give to others through service. We all hold a common truth of having been served by our own giving trees in our lives and seek to plant our own trees this year and beyond. During this year of service, there inevitably will be times when we feel like we have given away everything with no avail, but it is important that we continue reflecting on, and remember the importance of, service.
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
So where will you plant your apple tree?