As Megan mentioned on Friday, we just had our first in-service training of the VM Coordinator Class 23 year. We had five weeks from the end of Pre-Service Training until we all came together again and it was good fun to reconnect. In addition to workshops on volunteer orientation and conflict resolution, we spent some time sharing experiences from the first month. From where I sat, I continually heard two comments:
“I love it! I’m having a great time!”
“This is really hard.”
Isn’t that the great beauty of work that’s worth doing? Service as an AmeriCorps member is filled with great highs and incredibly challenging lows. There’s joy and satisfaction in knowing that one’s 9 to 5 (or 7 to 7) is creating a healthier community. Still, there are moments – or weeks or months – when lack of money, staff, or up-to-date office equipment can hinder one’s ability to see the impact of service. There are inefficiencies and old databases that may not give us the reports we need. There are staff, board members, and volunteers who resist change with every fiber of their being. There are volunteer recruitment events that fail.
And there are streams that are cleaner, children and adults who have learned to read, individuals with disabilities who can live independently, cancer patients who have someone to hold their hand through chemotherapy, trees that are planted, homes that are built, senior citizens who make it to the doctor’s…all because of volunteer programs developed by Volunteer Maryland Coordinators. Real dramatic change happens all because someone wrote a position description and developed policies and procedures and tabled recruitment events from county to county.
My dad, who served in his own way through more than 20 years in the Air Force and Army followed by years of volunteering in retirement, has his own way of putting this. “Hard work isn’t easy.” Simple and so true. If nonprofit organizations could easily meet the great challenges we face, then we wouldn’t need AmeriCorps members to do this really hard work. If poverty could be eradicated in a year or the Chesapeake Bay could be restored this month, then we’d all be fortunate enough to be out of work and the 85,000 individuals who serve each year in AmeriCorps would need to find something else to do with their time.
No, hard work isn’t easy. Choosing to serve one’s community takes real dedication, and AmeriCorps members like our VM Coordinators and VISTA members have accepted the challenge. I can’t tell them it’s going to be an easy ride. But I’m pretty confident there will be moments, and weeks and months, when they get to say “I love it!”