When I was asked to write about what I gained from my Summer of Service last year, I was a bit nervous since a.) the only thing I can remember gaining is an incredible farmer’s tan, and b.) I have no idea how to write a blog that is completely about getting a great farmer’s tan.
Ultimately, my 2009 Summer of Service memories populate myriad locations in my brain, akin to how, at the outset of a game of pool, all the balls are neatly and tightly racked, yet after a solid break they are scattered to the four corners of the table. Well, I have had a solid break (nearly half of a calendar year), and now the memories are scattered, so that the oddest things will trigger them: mention of the film Stand By Me, for example, will send me spiraling back to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (where we spent nearly all summer working), arguing during lunch about whether the kid from The Sandlot is the same kid who is in Stand By Me (he is not).
As I sit here, struggling to herd all of my Summer of Service memories back into a pen of meaning, as it were, I am inclined to tell stories, share anecdotes, jokes and times of trial. Like the time my fellow Corpsmember Chris found a small troll/gnome. Or our irrational fear of discovering fairy-children with bright blue eyes and falsetto voices. Or the song Homeless. Or dance parties in the van to MJ.
But these stories, they do not mean anything to you. They are the kind of story that when you tell it to someone who did not share the experience, you end with, “Well, guess ya had ta be there”. Because the stories, the experiences, are not in and of themselves meaningful; rather, the fact that they were shared imbued them with special meaning. That meaning is very much like a language, a language, perhaps, that you make up with a childhood friend, and only the two of you speak it.
So if you are looking for neatly packaged experiences, or skills, or whatever, to look forward to gaining from Summer of Service, I am sorry. My memories have experienced Diaspora; I cannot recall them, bring them back to the fold, to extract some kind of concrete juice of meaning. But I am comforted knowing that, like the voice of an old friend, my memories will call when I need them to, and I will listen, and smile.
-Steve Lynch, Conservation Alumni Mentor and former AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation Corpsemmber