After two weeks of orientation and constant talk about what the year ahead will be like working for Mile High, my Corpsmembers and I were chomping at the bit to get out into the field and start making a difference in the community. Much to our excitement, we finally received the call to “do work” – our self-titled motto for the 2010 Corpsmembers – and for the last three weeks, everyday has brought something new. Whether we are discovering more about our fellow co-workers on the ride in a 12-person van to a new multi-family complex or learning enough Russian to demonstrate changing light bulbs with “yes”, “no”, and hand-signals to an elderly couple, we have learned to approach each day with an open mind and the readiness, flexibility and adaptability to handle any situation that might be tossed our direction.
I entered the job eager to pass on my passion for the environment by furthering conservation practices through retrofitting homes, while also helping reduce money on people’s utility bills. However, the job has become much more than simply changing a lightbulb or aerator. While my long-term focus remains environmental, I have become much more fascinated and intrigued by the social aspect. Through conversation and observation, I have encountered a wide-range of opinions concerning the importance, or lack-there-of, regarding energy conservation. Some people are enthusiastic about our work, some do not care and some remain stubborn and feel we are just an extension of a government keen on further “regulation”. Although the latter is undoubtedly frustrating, the exciting part has been seeing my fellow Corpsmembers respond admirably and intelligently in attempts to open-mindedly instruct and work with the client rather than revert to a defensive attitude and argue against an opinion simply because it is against our belief.
At the same time, we will continue to be exposed to diverse living situations. In encountering different ways of life — perhaps uncomfortable at first — we have realized that we are in these homes not to judge how individuals live but to provide a service that can, ultimately, help aid their quest for improved lives.
Jesse is right; it is tough to see our work as a normal job. Everyday I am fortunate enough to wake up and go work with a fantastic group of individuals who are equally as passionate and committed about making a difference and seeking vastly new experiences. We have become one small family, already supporting each other in endeavors outside of work. Whether it is to attend a Corpsmember’s poetry reading, play 4-on-4 basketball at a local park or take time to say hello to another’s 1-year old son, the diversity in culture and background is something that is truly impressive. It is amazing that after only a month on the job, we have only scratched the service of what is shaping to be a great year.
-Michael Mullaley, AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation Corpsmember