Written by Jon Kirsch, 20, from Bedford, NH serving at Parker-Varney Elementary School
There was a time, not long ago, when I was so excited for winter break. Then break was upon me, and I found, to my surprise, that it was far less fulfilling than I had anticipated. It wasn’t that anything was different: the same friends, the same places, the same games. However, something didn’t feel the same. I was missing something. At first I thought it was just anticipation for Christmas, but Christmas came and went and I still felt off. Then, I figured it was New Years that I was anticipating, but again, that feeling didn’t go away. And then at last I realized: it was service. I was anticipating my return to service.
Break was great insofar as it recharged my battery, but it turns out that thirteen days was more than enough for me. For the first time since I can remember, I was looking forward to the end of break. I wanted to get back to work, get back to school, and get back to my students. It’s not that break wasn’t rejuvenating, because it was; like I said, the mechanics hadn’t changed. Turns out I was the one who was different: not break.
My service has enacted a change in me in a fundamental way. This has been a profound realization for me, and one I cannot easily make sense of. I knew I’d love City Year, but I never expected to enjoy it this much. My favorite moments during my break came when talking with my friends about City Year. My friends don’t quite understand the joys of serving others the way I do, but they were still eager to learn. I told them about how rewarding it feels to watch one of my students understand fractions, and how hard it can be to have a serious, heart-to-heart conversation with a kid who won’t stop misbehaving. My friends got a better idea of what my service means to me, to the degree that two of them are seriously considering applying to City Year next year. That conversation, probably above all other moments of those two weeks, was my favorite memory from this break.
That conversation still didn’t compare to the satisfaction I had upon returning to my desk in my classroom at Parker-Varney on the morning after break. As much as I enjoyed being home with my friends, I find that I now relate more to the legion of CYNH corps members that I now call my friends. Together, we made this commitment, and it makes me proud to know I’ve found a place where I belong, where I can enjoy myself while knowing I’m making a difference in the lives of others. Maybe it’s the friends I’ve made, or maybe it’s just the way I am, but serving, I now believe, is what I was meant to do. It feels good to come back from a two-week break to students I’ve only known a few months, but for whom I’ve nonetheless already made a huge positive impact. And the best rewards for me came in the form of three tiny words, which together formed a phrase that poured forth from each of my students when they ran up to me to say hello: “I missed you.”