By: Bryan Goldner
What does it mean to be part of a community? If you asked me what it is that the Conservation Corps does four months ago I might have been hard-pressed to give you a straight answer. I believe now, quite strongly, that I know what it means to me to be part of this organization, what we represent and exactly what it is that we do.
An iron-willed individual, with the strength of an ox, could toil his days and nights away in an effort to move a boulder embedded in the ground and not move anything forward but time. A group of individuals with a common objective however, has the ability not only to move the boulder, but to use it as a tool. The newly found inertia of the stone converts to a gravitational pull that attracts more and more people to aid its motion until, before long, the stone that the individual could not move now floats across the ground as if it were weightless.
After the past few days, I feel as though I can see again. I can see the human capacity for kindness, inspiration and selflessness. It all started when I was joined in a dusty parking lot by my crew and a community which had just been struck by disaster. We congregated amongst the mountains of sand and reveled in our makeshift desert as it was our only means of barring the surrounding waters from rising into the places people depend on for their livelihoods. As we bagged, shoveled and tied, the talk flowed with a striking likeness to that of a crew around the campfire. I observed silently, and listened.
A stout, old woman as solid as an oak tree and hardly bigger than the sand bags we filled shoveled sand more fervently than any man I have ever seen. Another homeowner sat rhythmically tying bags to build breakwalls for others as if her home was not being struck by waves at the very same moment. When the time came that we knew our crew would have to stay an extra day to continue working, a lakeside cabin full of amenities was unquestioningly offered to us. When equipment was needed, the community provided it. When we were tired or hungry, we were fed and offered shelter. We were given respect, appreciation and most of all a deep sense of purpose by the people of Kabetogama Township.
We are the community. We serve the people who need help the most, wherever it may be. We do what needs to be done and we don't stop working until it is done. A woman who was deeply moved by our efforts in preserving her cabin provided me with a sense of fulfillment that no amount of work or effort could have alone. She turned to me, subtly holding the tears from her eyes, and told me that no amount of words could make the difference that boots on the ground, the work that we we do, could make.