If my ‘Line a Day’ journal proves to be a trustworthy primary source, today points to the first time I scribbled a reference to COVID-19.
I should have been half way through my Masters. I should have been back in Edinburgh exhuming the piece of my heart that I left buried there. Sitting in the golden-walled kitchen at Roseneath, I should have been writing this post to tell you all about my courses and essays and upcoming dissertation. I should have been in the library up to my neck in books and primary sources and probably more than a few takeaway coffee cups. I might have even had brunch with my best friends.
But, that’s not what happened.
A year ago, I never thought that it would be over two years before I saw my best friends again or that I would have found myself in the Missouri Ozarks throwing logs and setting things on fire or driving a black, government van through the Rocky Mountains to deliver supplies or compiling reports from mega vaccination sites in New York and New Jersey to send up to the chain to AmeriCorps leadership and FEMA. I certainly never imagined that I’d donning a uniform and blousing my trousers every morning before settling into my desk at the Southwest Region AmeriCorps campus in Denver, CO.
But, I also never could have imagined what 2020 would bring and with it the loss of 500,000 American lives.
According to the New York Times, 1 in 3 Americans knows someone personally who has died due to COVID-19. Everyday I am so thankful that my family is keeping safe and well and protected. But, I also know that my family is incredibly lucky.
Last March, I remember watching the nightly news and thinking how out of control I felt. I saw my own personal academic goals slipping away as the world continued to spin around me. For as much as I believe that it comes down to every single one of us to lift up and reach back, I could only sit idle in the Kansas countryside making stained glass and reading on my porch while I knew deep down that I should be doing something somewhere to help.
(I blame my father for these self-sacrificing tendencies.)
So, after it became apparent that returning to Scotland just wasn’t in the cards, I knew that I had to act and joining AmeriCorps as a Team Leader became that action.
In the past seven months, I’ve received leadership trainings, made new friends across the country, and gained new contextual understandings of government bureaucratic management. I’ve been able to directly see the impact of my service work too. Just recently, I received an email from the Missouri State Park Department. The 187 acre unit my team enclosed with fireline was burned recently in a prescribed fire. My team’s line held like a champ.
Stay with me as I continue that metaphor… the line that my team dug out of the sand and mud and soil along the rocky, undulating glade landscape of the Ozarks held against rain and wind and flames. The line that both prevented wildfires from escaping and ensured that the enclosed 187 acres had the best chance of rebirth held firm.
I wasn’t there to see the burn but, that’s what reaching back and lifting up is all about, isn’t it? Planting those trees, digging those lines that you might never see. But, I know what that line means. It means that invasive species are being removed and that the land will begin its cycle anew. It will heal and mend and become something truly spectacular.
But it won’t be all at once, and it certainly won’t be because of the singular actions of eleven young adults.
But, it is certainly on its way.
In historical analysis, we call this the longue durée, a school of thinking primarily used by the 20th century French Annales School to explore long term changes across historical nexuses. How slow changes add up to create monumental shifts. How even the smallest actions, the most insignificant actions join together to leave the greatest impact.
Like the actions I have done over the past seven months and the actions I know the world will do over the coming year.
So, hang tight. Hold on. I’ll be here in Colorado sending emailing, making phone calls, running supplies, compiling vaccine site reports, and taking packages to UPS every single feckin’ day.
But, hey, it’s all for the longue durée.
It’s all for that hope that I’ll be able to sit on a unbalanced stool in the window of a cafe in moody, dreich Edinburgh and watch the rain hit the cobbles while I pretend to listen as my friends prattle on about something inconsequential.