The following is a guest post from Teri Winston, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at the Literacy Council of Prince George’s County.
It was early Saturday morning and I had a list of things to do a mile long. Go to Traders Joe’s, because I was out of food. Stop at Ace’s Hardware Store to get seedlings for my garden. Do laundry, the pile was getting bigger by the minute. Pay a couple of bills…ouch! Return a few phone calls…yada, yada, yada. You get the picture. My eyes were still closed as I mentally went over my day. Stay in bed? How tempting. Get up and be productive? Borrrrrrrring! I swung my feet off of the bed onto my cool hardwood floor and decided it was now or never. Any longer in the bed and I knew I wouldn’t budge for hours.
Dragging myself around Trader Joe’s for twenty minutes seemed more of a bother than usual, but I did it. As I put my shopping bags on the counter for the Trader Joe’s cashier he says, “Thank you for all you do.” What an interesting thing to say just for bringing in my recyclable bags. “You’re welcome” I responded with a half smile. “So where did you do your service?” he asked. Responding to the confused expression on my face he pointed to the emblem on my sweatshirt. I looked down to see the AmeriCorps logo. I immediately brightened up. That small compliment lifted my energy one hundred percent. Then I explained that I was still in service and told him proudly, but briefly about my site as he was almost finished ringing me up. The Literacy Council of Prince George’s County is an adult education community dedicated to the lifelong learning as we help strengthen the literacy skills necessary to gain personal, parental, and economic empowerment; civic responsibility; and technological proficiency.
Lately I’ve had mixed feelings. There is still so much to do at my site and so little time left. Then I feel bad for sometimes wanting the year to be over because of the mystery of where I’ll be three months from now. Random compliments like these help to bring my focus back. Seeing the eyes of children light up with wonder and surprise as I let them hold the diamond back terrapin on the Fish Mobile and hearing the students in my ESL class read English more confidently than just three months ago warms my heart. When they glance my way when they easily read words that once made them stumble I am so proud of them. Listening to why our volunteers give their time as we enjoy a Nationals game together at a volunteer appreciation event reminds me why I joined AmeriCorps and why what I do matters.
Positive change is all around us and maybe in some small way we helped to make it happen. We don’t always receive a word of thanks, but we must remember to appreciate the growth and improvement that we see and hear at our sites. That is my reward, that is the pride of my service year and I’m trying to finish strong, knowing that in my heart I did my best.