In folklore, there is a concept called the liminal zone. The liminal zone is the not-quite-there place where urban legends, et cetera happen. For example: when the crazy, hook-wielding maniac that just escaped from the mental asylum (ignoring the obvious “how did he get a hook in an insane asylum?”) goes on a rampage and begins stalking the cute couples along Makeout Road or Hook-up Point—which as a hook-wielding maniac would be more…appropriate?—this aforementioned maniac works in the liminal zone. He does not kill right in the center of town—too many witnesses—and he does not do his dirty work in the next town over—then it wouldn’t be special to that particular town (say, Innocentville, USA). The people telling the story, the townsfolk of Innocentville, make sure to emphasis it happens on a poorly-lit road out past the warehouse district just before you get to the next town. It is the liminal zone. It is on the fringe of what we know. Now, of course, this isn’t set in stone, the liminal zone is an arguable concept and can change according to perception, et cetera, et cetera. I’m just using it as a starting point.
I promise, too, there is a point to this. I’m not just babbling this time.
During my year here, and arguably during the years’ of the other fifty-plus of us, we’ve all encountered things to be thankful that have occurred or exist in our own liminal zones. There is plenty to be thankful that is blatant and intentional and we will always remember, but I’m not talking about that. This is in no way a slight to those that worked themselves to the bone to make sure we could do what we did. No. This isn’t at all words against a woman who, without her, none of us would be here. At all. Without her heart and soul and passion, City Year New Hampshire just wouldn’t be. This is not either of those things. Those people know we are thankful. Or should. This isn’t about that; this is for the people, places and things that may have been overlooked, those that exist neither here nor there in our immediate minds.
First in my mind are the waiters, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers, and hosts who have seated fed and, in some cases, entertained us with jokes throughout the year when we go out and spend our hard-earned stipend on people that, outside of tips, make less than us. Janitors, too, I think, belong on this list. Our janitors at Henry Wilson, Al and Frank, were more or less always open to conversation, if even just a “Hello, how are you today?” I remember, too, on Global Youth Service Day when we plugged the sink with latex paint scraps and Frank dutifully helped us out until it finally came unclogged. There’s the crossing guards, grocery packers, gas station attendants, YMCA staff from greeters to towel men and women, and the I’m guessing hundred of other people we as a corps have had interactions with this year that has passed through our collective consciousness (I’m using the collective sense because the plural form of consciousness looks funny and Microsoft disagrees that it is indeed a real word) like papers taken away by a breeze.
What stinks, what truly, utterly stinks is even in my paragraph I’m missing out of people deserving of my thanks. I’m bias towards those that I interacted with the most, not necessarily the ones that were most deserving of thanks. For that I throw an apology into the atmosphere and hope this does something to mitigate my poor memory. In line with this, I in no way mean to belittle any of the work any of these people do—by saying it occurs in my liminal zone is simply an observation that, during my time here, certain events and people occupy a space of greater relevance to my daily life and actions. (This is one of those thing
I think, too, that there are skills we’ve acquired that we can be thankful for that would never make it onto a resume, but are still useful. (Sidebar: this was my original idea for this post. I would write a fake resume highlighting all of these fantastic new skills. It would be funny and everyone would laugh. Or some people. Probably only some people would laugh.) I didn’t want to completely do away with mentioning these skills for three reasons: 1) I truly believe they are, in their own ways, important skills that we gained and 2) I think using the words “tactical” and “khaki” in the same sentence is funny and 3) I like the clarity and to-the-point-ness of lists. So, here is an incomplete list of skills:
1) Tactical Khaki Management
2) Master certificate in Sleep Deprivation Studies
3) Paperclip art specialist
4) Ramen bon vivant
These might be just cheap laughs now, but I promise they would’ve been funny in resume format. Laugh anyway, though. Force it, because laughter is good and we should laugh at least once a day, every day, anyway.
Finally, I realize there are some glaring holes in what I’ve written about. I haven’t talked about my service, or our service as a whole or kids or anything in those veins or similar ones. My logic is simple: those stories are best told with voice. Passion can only come across so far in font and color and size on a liquid crystal screen. One cannot possibly begin to find the nuances in our stories—those moments when we need to pause to compose ourselves or the glint in our eyes when we remember just how funny or touching a certain moment was. None of that can be seen here in words. Sure, we could try. One moment, one of my last, that comes immediately to mind is an interaction with a first-grader who, with a stare focused seemingly always on the heavens, wished me, simply, “Good luck” on my last day. That moment for me was one that I will never forget, but could never dream of coming close to describing in words alone.
So here’s what you need to do. Seek us out. Talk to us. There are a lot of corps members around. Ask us about our time, our Starfish stories. We’ve got them and we’ll gladly share them. Plus, it’ll be a lot better than any words I could type here.