much to learn
Things in D.C. are going surprisingly well. I’m working at an organization with a small team of people, which is a nice change of pace compared to past summer internships at big companies. I’m also learning a lot about the way the world works. Just very basic things about poverty, race, class… all those things that sociology classes address, but sometimes those lectures don’t sink in as well as talking to real people and working on real problems. I still have so, so much to learn, but at least I know that now. I guess that’s something. (Pigeons are flying by my window right now…) It’s amazing to me that at some public elementary schools, 80% of the kids live below the poverty line. And living without the basics of a stable life makes learning difficult… School’s hard enough without that added stress.

It’s also amazing how much parents want to help their children to succeed. I don’t know why I’m amazed. I guess I always thought that the parents must not really want their kids to do well… otherwise they’d make school more of a priority. But parents are signing up by the dozen for our Community Nights at different elementary schools, which feature (here comes the memorized spiel): A family dinner from 6-6:30, then children are paired with volunteer mentors who read with them and do arts and crafts while their parents go into workshops to learn how to make reading more fun at home. At the end of the night, everyone takes home a free book.

Honestly, I don’t think my own parents would’ve signed up for this event. It’s two extra hours out of a busy day. But parents at these schools are excited to sign up. They expect it to cost something (it’s free). And the fact that they get to take home a free book makes kids’ eyes light up. I think that’s pretty cool.

you said it
Sometimes I overhear other people saying random things that express how I’m feeling better than I ever could. Like today. Today was frustrating and confusing, because I had to deal with a lot of Americorps’ endless bureaucracy.

“And oh yeah…. P.S.? Don’t send me to the fuckin’ White House no more!” — Bike messenger yelling into his walkie-talkie

“Wow! This is not the first floor!” — Man in downward-bound elevator as the doors opened on my floor, the 4th

“Just make sure you like them a real lot. As long as you have fun together, everything will work out.” — my grandma, giving me dating advice

i am here, that is there
Today, like this time last year, I am cut off from what happened in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Last year on September 11, I was staying at Tara’s cabin on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Now I’m in a little town outside of Buffalo, NY, far away from anything tangible to mark the passing of a year. Here, you could almost forget that anything even happened. My mother actually looked at the newspaper yesterday and said with surprise, “Oh! Tomorrow’s September 11?” It’s not that she’s uninformed or living in a cave; she’s just busy and thinking about other things. And here, like in many parts of the country, you can. For a lot of lucky people, it’s possible look outside and see no reminder that anything ever happened. It’s a weird, disconnected feeling that makes all those images on television still seem unreal.

Part of that, of course, is my own fault. Many people went to church today, or had their own way to memorialize the day. But I didn’t know what to do. Nothing seemed right. So I did nothing much. Read Patrick’s blog for a reminder that, once upon a time, all of this felt more real than we could take. (Check the megaphone for the weirdness that I wrote 9/11 and 9/12.)