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Life goes on

By Michele Duley

Today marks the last day of our time here in Birmingham. It has been an interesting week of ups and downs: experiencing the aftermath of deadly tornados, roofing and painting in blisteringly hot temperatures, enjoying downtime with colleagues we haven’t seen in months, learning about the history of the civil rights movement, and above all, making a difference in the lives of 14 Birmingham-area families.

Endings, in general, are often bittersweet, at best. We all seem happy to be going back to our “normal” day-to-day lives at our own affiliates. And while we may or may not miss the area we came to for our prospective Build-A-Thons across the country, we will most certainly miss that sense of camaraderie that goes with being part of a large group with a unified mission.

For many of us, this is our last hurrah; we will never meet as a group again, and may not see our friends in a long, long time. Soon, many of us will be going on to other things: graduate or law school, moving or getting married, starting a new job or even continuing with AmeriCorps for another year.

It’s times like these that make me feel reflective (and even a little nostalgic) about what I’ve learned during my time here ― both this week and this year.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned (or rather, been reminded of) this week, is that life continues, and people and traditions survive. The highlight of my week has definitely been my trip to the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, which has one of the best displays I’ve seen on the Civil Rights movement.

It reminded me a lot of the recurrence of themes in our society and how they could be continuous over time. Slavery and brutal oppression of previous times gave way to the sometimes subtle and vicious repression of Jim Crow laws; the remnants of such inequality can still be seen today in the marginalization, low wages, joblessness, and housing crises that affect certain populations today. Despite seeing such inequity, there is also another continuity, that of hope, and survival, and an inner strength and joy that cannot be denied, no matter what life’s circumstances.

It is this survival, this thriving spirit, that has me come back time and again to make a difference in the communities we, all AmeriCorps, are sworn to serve. These are the traditions I celebrate, and the ones I am intent upon having survive in the long run.

As I look to what’s next for me, I feel sadness that my time with AmeriCorps is coming to an end after three years, but I understand that life continues, even mine, and the experiences I felt as an AmeriCorps will live on in some form or another, as I will always, per the saying, be committed to “getting things done.”

I salute us all for our accomplishments in Birmingham this week, and am proud to consider myself to be one of so many out to make a difference on this planet. Namaste.