Turning Sand into Diamonds

Written by Jonathan Kirsch, 20 years old from Bedford, NH serving at Parker-Varney Elementary School co-sponsored by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and The TJX Companies.

I came across some sand last week. I scooped it up and put it in my pocket. I know it’ll come in handy by the time I reach the end of my journey. It seems silly, but the payoff will be worth it.

My team, Parker-Varney, has a founding story that has resonated with me throughout this year called “Sand Into Diamonds”.  At City Year, we have inspirational stories that provide greater perspective and each team chooses a story to guide them through their service year. Sand Into Diamonds relates the story of a traveler in the desert confounded by a lack of food, water, direction, and hope. The traveler is visited by a spirit that tells her to pick up some sand and put it in her pocket. She is assured that she will reach her destination safely, but in the end, be both happy and sad. Despite her skepticism and the trials ahead of her, she found her way to a village, where the people nurtured her back to health. As she reached into her pocket, she found that the sand she had picked up from the desert had turned into diamonds, and she realized, the genie was right: she was happy and sad. She was happy she had made it out alive, but sad that she hadn’t picked up more sand.

I think of this story whenever I reflect on my year of service so far, and try to identify which moments stand out the most. These are my diamonds, and they’re already crystallizing.

I feel like the entire month of February has been diamond after diamond, good memory after good memory, life lesson after life lesson. There’s been so much work to do, from in-kinding food for Camp City Year, to our Parker-Varney Literacy Night, along with planning daily afterschool Starfish Corps lessons and 1:1 /small group sessions for my students. I feel like my entire team, and the corps at large, is at its maximum stress level. And it feels pretty good — we’re firing on all cylinders.

Sometimes when you’re so caught up in work, you forget to slow down and appreciate the little moments that get you through the day, like when a student comes up to you to show you that she finished her math homework, or when a kid quotes an episode of SpongeBob that you watched when you were his age, and share a moment to remember what it feels like to be a kid. Despite the monumental tasks ahead of us as a team and an organization, working with kids can sometimes keep us from going insane, and these are the moments that make up the sand that fills our pockets.

I think it’s important to remember those moments, especially at this point in the year, when it feels like everything is coming down to the wire. Although the end of the year is pretty much in sight, I don’t want to lose that sense of momentum, that sense of urgency, because there’s still much more sand to collect. I want big beautiful diamonds in my pockets by the end of the year, which means I’ll have to learn from every interaction, every moment — every time my students pass a math test, every time we have perfect attendance, every time my team shares stories at the end of the day, every recess, every laugh, every innocent insight. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” Robert Herrick wrote, and it feels like the hourglass is running dry. But there are still many more diamonds to be made.

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About CityYear NH

City Year is a nonprofit that unites young people of all backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time service. As tutors, mentors, and role models, these idealistic leaders make a difference in the lives of children, and transform schools and neighborhoods across the US and in South Africa. For more information on how to get involved please call the City Year New Hampshire Recruitment hotline at 603-218-5101.
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