by Brianna Thompson
There were countless times during my cohort’s pre-service training where I thought, “I am so lucky to be in the presence of these people,” but never so much as during our Commitment to Service ceremony. Our Commitment to Service was a private ceremony (meaning only the Peace Corps trainees, the volunteer leader, and Peace Corps staff were present) that took place a couple of days before our swear-in ceremony. Each volunteer took a minute or two to share in their own way why they were about to officially make a two-year commitment to the Peace Corps. I should have known better than to wear makeup that day. It was like a repeat of the time I saw that Pixar movie Up and never stopped crying because not only was it a beautiful sad love story, but there was gorgeous imagery and it was a beautiful, happy, friendship story. It all gave me too many emotions to contain inside my eyes. I was reminded for the millionth time that I am a part of a group of very special people. Here’s a bit of what was shared.
Roses are red, violets are blue
An aspirante for now
On Friday un voluntario through & through
Teaching English, secondary projects, que bacano
I have a goal to speak like a Colombiano
Like as required I will be muy flexible
With my positive mind todo es posible
Working with kids sometimes drives me loco
I’ll be patient, work hard and drink limonada de coco
Motorcycles, buses, helmets y una zona roja
Sometimes I’m living dentro de una burbuja
Tangible progress that is sostenible
I hope I have a counterpart compatible
I will walk through my town and be integrado
Maybe even be the Rey Momo newly nombrado
27 months is going to be muy duro
But completing my service estoy seguro
Bucket showers, mosquitos, humidity y arroyos
I will persevere as long as I don’t eat more bollos
Angell shared this picture which shows her representing both the US and Korea to Colombians, and representing Colombia back to the US and Korea. It also shows that she is a strong woman that will empower other young women.
I wasn’t ever supposed to join Peace Corps. I am a complete conspiracy theorist and I still don’t trust the government, but I’m here.
I wasn’t supposed to learn Spanish because I was labeled ADD inattentive, a slow processor, and depressed. I thought I wasn’t capable of learning a second language, but I can say I speak Spanish.
I wasn’t supposed to go to college because I’m the daughter of addicts, because sometimes welfare and child support left me with a rumbling tummy and shoes three sizes too small, because I’m a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, because I’m a birth mom, but I went and I’m proud of what I learned in those four years.
These things are all are a part of my story; they are scars on the gray matter of my brain and the ventricles of my heart. My traumas make me a compassionate listener, and they help me put my assumptions in check and assume the best of other humans. They also make me fiercely independent, introspective, analytical (sometimes to a fault), a bit intolerant to complaining, and unconsciously guarded.
I’m telling you this not because I want pity or because I need to take an emotional dump on everyone. I tell you because I refuse to live in secret shadows anymore, because I won’t live with other people’s shame.
We are magical unicorns by the simple fact that we are called to serve with complete sincerity, the fact that all of us are swearing in on Friday with complete volition.
I commit to love you even when you’re wearing on my last nerve. What does my love look like?
It’s a listening ear and open arms free of judgment…
My love is encouraging words and anecdotal connections when welcome…
It’s an observant love. I will do my best to notice you, to check in, and to back you up when you need it.
I posses the very unhealthy habit of hyper functioning when I feel the worst, so from you I ask that when it seems convenient and it appears as though I’m doing very well, please offer the probing questions. Help break me down so I can build myself back up.
Thank you for being present, thank you for listening, and thank you for your commitments. I want to invite everyone to close your eyes; let’s take three deep breaths, remember that you are human, remember that we are all human, and that we are not special but each of our journeys are completely unique.
Michelle DiIeso’s poem/artwork
Is there anything more heartbreaking than meeting someone
That shares the same thoughts and dreams and wants
Only to have your paths not cross again?
And here we are, wandering souls from different walks of life
And it’s so obvious that every single one of is us here for a reason
Brought together now to grow and learn at a slow Costeño pace
But does anyone else feel it?
That instant sense of belonging
For once, we don’t need to explain why we chose this
We’re away from everything we’ve ever known
But for once, everyone just gets it
This common thread we all share
I’ve never experienced anything like it.
And isn’t it wonderful?
We give and take
We give and take
And we don’t keep score
Because we’re family
This strange patchwork form of puzzle pieces
With so much love between us
Have you ever heard the story about the giving tree?
It gave everything away
A selfless little being down to its last twig
Until it had nothing more
Because those around it never saw the power and the longevity that a tree could provide
I like to think we’re all that tree
But this time, we’re a whole forest of them
If one grows sparse, we all share the load
Until it can grow back big and strong
Think about it
We’re not just teachers for a finite amount of time
We have the ability to provide fruit for decades
Long after we leave, if we give and give and give to those around us
And now we go scattered off to new places
But never too far away from someone that feels like home
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”
My own commitment to service
A commitment is a promise; a promise to be loyal, a promise to complete what you started, a promise to stick with it through thick and through thin. It is a promise that carries the weight of time and sacrifice. I choose to make these promises, and therefore a commitment, to my new counterparts, students, community, and family, as well as to each and every one of you. I commit to you all to be a la orden, at your disposal. To support you by working for and with you, but trying my best not doing work to you. To play devil’s advocate and help you see another’s perspective. To celebrate your strengths and help you leverage them to reach your goals. These promises of these actions are my commitment to service.
Two days later we were sworn-in as Peace Corps Volunteers, and to quote our Country Director, based on our Commitment to Service “I have no doubt that you will be fantastic volunteers!”
We were lucky enough to be serenaded by one of our cohort members with this lovely song by Ben Rector.