Grief, observed


I had an aunt who laughed uncontrollably at funerals.

Everyone deals with things differently. In grief we fall in line with those who are sympathetic toward our individual outlooks. This isn’t to say one is right and the others are not, but rather that everyone finds solace in familiarity. When we first started, it seemed as though people gravitated toward one another by whatever secret chemistry there is amongst strangers. Then the school teams were formed, then the class teams were formed within the school team, and then teacher-corps member bonds led to sort of teams within team.

But after an event like the one that rocked Linden and Mifflin these last weeks, those teams are broken down. Some students joke. Some students cry. Some corps members speak up. Others keep quiet. Emotion is displayed or disguised. In group discussion, I mostly listen, stare at the floor and find patterns in the carpet. Perhaps I’m unwilling to open up in such a large group. But I admire those in the corps who can. I admire those students who ask for help and those who try to remain strong. I find myself frustrated with those who joke around, but equally frustrated with myself when I cannot put into words what I’m feeling. I remind myself that everyone grieves differently. Not everyone is used to tragedy, not everyone knows an appropriate way to react.

Within our corps and within our schools, teams are broken down and a Team is formed. We are united, no matter how we react, by a desire to make a difference. In light of the circumstances, we may be at a loss on how to create an effective plan, but I believe we’re all on the same page.  It’s frustrating in times like these to feel so small, so isolated, unsure of what we may be able to do, uncertain of how to move forward.

But I am thankful that together as a Team we can lean on one another and likewise be ones to lean on, to be a unified agent of change in our service.

— Kyle Bialko, first year corps member of the ATT Team at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy

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Solidarity among teams

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Discovering Ubuntu


Erica Pence and Corps at Basic Training Retreat

Erica Pence and Corps at Basic Training Retreat

The unfortunate passing of Nelson Mandela led me on a journey of discovery about this amazing individual’s life. I have always admired Mandela, specifically his insight concerning social issues. City Year tackles the social issue of education. At the beginning of our year of service, we establish “I Serve” statements that summarize why we decided to dedicate a year to national service. My “I serve” statement is about the power of Ubuntu. Ubuntu, a term borrowed from the Zulu tribe of South Africa, means “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.”

The theory conveys an indispensable spiritual certainty about the world: We are all connected to each other through invisible webs of interdependence. We share a collective world and a mutual purpose, and the small struggles of the few effect the population as a whole. I believe that the power of interdependence can truly change the world. However, we must get past the basic barriers that hold us back from being one humanity; race, religion, etc. Practicing cultural humility is essential for our own awareness of the world and ethnic education.

As stated in Mandela’s autobiography, he believes that “no one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Mandela proved this web of interdependence and love when he held a conference on Civil Society in Cape Town in 2001. Mandela extended an invitation to Clinton, who accepted and brought along a delegation from the US, which included representatives from City Year Inc. From this, City Year South Africa was established in 2005. This is a concept I am trying to engrave into my work with students. Most students have preconceived feelings towards certain cultures, which is only holding them back from genuine appreciation of the world around them. If I can open up that barrier of acceptance, there are countless possibilities to what they can achieve.

— Erica Pence, first year corps member