Love is in the air. That’s what they say at least. I was reminded by one of the interns at SEEED that cynics like him don’t take much joy in Singles Awareness Day. I might be a sap, but I do feel the love in the air around here, even if it’s not in the way one might expect.
We had a group of eleven students just start the Career Readiness Program and had two new interns start just a few days before. As you can imagine, the office has been a little crowded. It’s too early, of course, to really know how the students will do. One thing that has surprised me this first week, though, is how much love is in the room. We’ve has students share some intense things, from incarceration to fear of dropping out of GED once again to homelessness. Every time, I see the students afraid they will be isolated and left out, and every time I have seen their classmates and instructors and mentors reach out to them in love.
For example, we have a group of men from a local church who are coming in to mentor the students and learn about SEEED. After the men said who they were and where they were from, one of the students raised his hand and asked a question, “Why do you care about us?” The men fumbled for an answer. It’s not a question they expected, but they did say it was brave of him to ask. Later I watched them carry on conversations with the students about things they had in common (like the trials of living with a two year old) and things they did not (like what staying at a job for years was like). It occurred to me that the men were circling around an answer. They cared about the students because they firmly believed that God loved them and that they were worthy of love and care.
When people explain why they are join AmeriCorps, the standard line is generally about making a difference or giving back. Increasingly, I feel another reason lies beneath that one. Yes, we absolutely want to make a difference. But it’s important to think about why we want things to be better. For many people, I think the answer is something like what those men were feeling. It is put in different terms– God or of human rights or of reducing suffering– but fundamentally I want to do this work because I believe all people are worthy of love and care. On the level of a society, it doesn’t mean flowers and chocolate all around. But I do think it still has meaning. Maybe it’s compassion and a social safety net for everyone, or opportunity for everyone, or a second chance for everyone. I still have a lot to figure out, but I think it’s among the most important work people can do. After all, love is in the air.