As I watch the blossoms come and go in this April of 2019, it occurs to me that 15 years ago this month I was closing my 27 month Peace Corps service in Mali. I suppose I’ve come a long way since I was that brash young adult, but an enormous part of the journey of me took place during those two years. This is why I turned to National Service when I needed to blaze a new path a decade later, and why I am building my career in the field of National Service even today.
As my senior year of college began, I was starting to realize that it really hadn’t prepared me for any sort of life I wanted to pursue. I was so uncomfortable in the college environment that I was struggling to develop in positive ways as a person and I finally recognized this fact. I was looking for ways to challenge myself as an entire human being rather than coast through academics and everything else that was made a little too easy (but somehow very discomfiting) in that environment.
I remember watching an adventure television show where a rugged jungle hero type talked about how he had gotten into the game after his Peace Corps term. Until I saw that, I had an image of Peace Corps that I would never fit into, but suddenly I started to see the potential, how the things I wanted to get out of life that seemed completely out of reach were suddenly accessible. I didn’t quite become a jungle hero, but my service challenged my notions of what we need to put in and take out of a given experience—and gave me the best and most important two years of my life.
In my four years associated with AmeriCorps, I’ve shared service with well over a hundred Members, and they come from many walks of life, with various skills and experiences, and they cross my path at many points on their many life journeys. National Service is not an exclusive niche club; rather it improves the lives of so many people it touches, not least those who commit a year or two of their lives to it. At age 20 I couldn’t imagine myself doing National Service, and as I approach 40 I can’t imagine my journey without it.
Written by Thomas Darnell