Wisconsin Ponderings

The AmeriCorps Pledge:

I will get things done for America -

to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.

I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.

Faced with apathy,
I will take action.
Faced with conflict,
I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity,
I will persevere.

I will carry this commitment
with me this year and beyond.

I am an AmeriCorps member,
and I will get things done.

To Lois, the 83 year old woman whose Wisconsin basement flooded over 2 months ago, thank you. When you told me your mother used to say "Thunder is God scolding the bad people," I laughed. When you told me your fiance died during World War II and that you are concerned about the young men of our generation fighting a new war, I worried. And after Tyler gave you a hug good-bye after our work and you said "I haven't had a hug like that in years!" I nearly cried. I came to clean your basement and instead spent 6 hours talking with you about your life and remembered the wisdom and importance of the aged.

To Mr. Mitchell, the artist, carpenter extraordinaire, and the supposed (in our 20-something minds) Lake Winnebago pirate and cultural anthropologist, thank you. When we sadly told you the interior walls of your storage room, that had rotted because of the 9 inches of flooded sewage, would have to come down and you quietly repeated the same word "Oh" 5 times over, I learned a lesson in humility. You accepted fate with strength. I'm sorry we carried your wooden creations to the curb and scheduled them for trash pick-up, but thank you for understanding.

To Ruth, the woman who prepared her basement for our visit by sorting all of her belongings ahead of time, thank you. You made our job easier. I regretted being the one to inform you that your antique fourth generation high-chair, the feeding stool passed down to you from your aunt and used with your children and grandchildren, was probably mold infested because of standing water and would need to be thrown away.

To the disabled veteran whose home we attempted to repair today, I'm sorry your wife has aggressive cancer and that you will be left to raise a young child yourself.

To the school teacher whose soggy memory books, photos, and tokens of remembrance we carried from the basement and put in the "must go" pile, I apologize for your loss.

AmeriCorps has been tough for me at times. I'm homesick. I'm tired. Circumstances have pulled, pushed and tortured me. I have struggled to justify constant change and the unknown. My body and mind yearn for the freedom I once knew-- I am only so "flexible." But when I pull the mold-infested, sewage-damaged, water-warped, shit-crusted personal belongings from the basements of the homes of the elderly men and women whom we are here to help, and see memories and hard work being stacked on curbs to be hauled away and tossed for further rot and am thanked for doing it, I find definition in my commitment.


  1. Thanks for updating. I am also reading. I just wanted you to know :) We missed you at the reunion yesterday. It sounds like you are continuing to influence and reach so many people. Love you lots!

  2. What a true character of charity you are my sweetheart! You have touched so many lives with your acts of kindness and service. You are the good samaritan of today, ready and willing to help those in need. I miss you and my heart goes out to all your friends you made in Biloxi and New Orleans and hope and pray for their well being and safety. Love you and can't wait till you come home! MOM

  3. Hey Sista! It sounds like you are having a rough time! I cried a little reading your blog. I can't imagine how difficult it is for the people you are helping. I am so proud to be your sister and I hope that I can be like you some day. I love you!!!!


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