The past few weeks have really shown me the difficulties that can arise in this program. It’s hard to only write about the good things without recognizing first that, much like everything else in life, this program is not always perfect.
Although my team and I started strong, the long training days have definitely slowed down our initial energy. It’s been hard maintaining a positive attitude and presence after twelve hour training sessions, especially when we’re adding different personalities and abilities to that mix. Everyone responds differently to stress, but sometimes that has made it more difficult for me to not respond out of frustration during the many high-pressure situations we’ve already faced.
Yesterday may have been the worse of it all. We had a twelve-hour training day to receive all of our equipment. Most of the day was spent sitting around waiting for things that were out of our control. By the end of the day, everything was such a blur that I barely remembered how I had even spent my day or what the point of the whole day really was. As someone who strongly believes each day needs to be taken advantage of, it’s hard for me to rationalize why I would subject myself to this day after day.
Two days ago we got to work on a service project for the Jackson Inner-City Garden, a non-profit organization ran by a man named Tre. Tre works with youth to gain agricultural skills while also helping mentor them so that they can find a good path in life. After hours of hard work on his property, Tre left us with some words about discipline. He said that while we spend most of our childhood hating discipline, as we grow up we realize the benefits of it. He said we should find discipline through this program, to find a focus to better ourselves.
I couldn’t see it in the moment yesterday but what Tre said was a really good indication of how we need to tackle the bad of the program. There’s going to be a lot of bad days and a lot of things that we simply cannot control, but if we embrace the discipline these days bring us we will come out so much better from it. Instead of growing frustrated and complacent, we need to accept that the discipline will bring us something bigger, whether that is a heightened ability to see the good of each activity or a stronger sense of patience. Often this program really is just what we make of it and learning to embrace the discipline, at least for me, will really help bring about a better attitude through all of the parts that truly suck.
The bad aside, I wanted to take a chance to talk about the two service projects my team and I got to work on this past week. On Monday, we got the opportunity to work with a local non-profit in Mississippi that focuses on educating kids on the importance of healthy food. They’ve done a number of things including setting up a local gym and farmers market and maintaining gardening programs at local schools. A healthy lifestyle has always been extremely important to me and was something I was fortunate enough to pursue through my last job, so this project specifically hit very close to home for me. I was able to spend the day helping maintain garden plots at local schools while another group worked on building garden boxes. Even if I wasn’t working directly with kids, it was exciting to know that our labor was helping an organization with such an important mission. The next day my team and I worked with Tre on his property. His farm is organic, although not certified, and he likes to stress the importance of learning agricultural work as a good means of focus. It was incredible to work for someone who tried so hard (and succeeded) in making such a positive impact on the lives of others. He often mentored young male adults who didn’t finish high school and by the end of their time together were off on their way to college. It really put the idea of discipline in perspective for me and made me realize the benefit of finding a focus and really jumping head on into it to better yourself in other areas of life.
As much as I love Mississippi, I’m not going to lie when I say I miss my home in Vinton. We’re working everyday until we leave next Thursday but we’ll get the opportunity over the next few days to learn more about our specific FEMA roles, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ll keep you all updated!