Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This Is Our Country.

I work for a nonprofit organization. Lots of people have a lot of misconceptions about what that means, exactly, but what it means to me is that every day, I get up to go to work for something I believe in that benefits people other than myself – though I do, directly and indirectly, experience benefits as well. I’m paid. I have fantastic fringe benefits. I have amazing coworkers. I am inspired and humbled by the young people we serve. And every year, about this time, I get to read dozens and dozens of applications from people all over our great nation who are interested in dedicating a year of their life – and in many cases, two years - in service to their country through community organizations. They make virtually no money. They have virtually no fringe benefits. All they want is to be a part of something that helps someone else.

I’ve been reviewing these applications for quite a few years now – but this year, it’s a little different. People from all over the country – not just Minnesota, not just the Twin Cities – are applying for national service here. Some of them are married. Some of them have kids. Some of them were the first in their families to attend college and are now completing Masters’ programs. Some of them are a few or several years out of college. Cynics will chalk it up to a lousy economy. I chalk it up to our President. They have heard the call to service and they have answered it. “I am asking you to believe, not just in my ability to bring about a real change in Washington, I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

It’s one thing to hope. It’s one thing to be asked. It’s quite another, as many AmeriCorps members will tell you, to live on less than $11,000 per year. But they do it. Without complaint, and without remorse. This year, as I wade through application after application of diverse, highly qualified, highly motivated, and highly inspired individuals applying to work with my organization, I am moved from hope to belief in my fellow citizens, in my country and in my President. Or, as one of my coworkers so succinctly put it: “People were skeptical, but the world really did get better over night when Obama took office.”

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