How My Year In National Service Changed My Life

How My Year In National Service Changed My Life

My national service with FEMA Corps helped me realize the importance of being an active member in society.
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Five feet.

I can never seem to remember how many ounces are in a cup or kilometers in a mile, but one measurement that I will never forget: five feet.

Five feet reached just below the windowsill on the house Jill spent everything on. Looking at the house you could see a debris line wrapping around the outside, five feet was how high the waterline reached.

Her second chance was underwater and after the flooding subsided she was left with repairs she could not afford and the potential for mold, which could mean medical expenses down the road. A few intact canned goods and McDonalds’ coupons were sustaining her family of five until they could get more money from Food Stamps the following month.

Though her name is fake, her struggle was real and commonplace with survivors in Louisiana this year. Parts of the Bayou State were underwater a great deal in 2016, as a result of two devastating floods. Though she is based on a woman born and raised in Louisiana, her story could have taken place in West Virginia after the flooding or in Florida after Hurricane Matthew.

I will never forget the massive debris piles lining the streets of, what looked like, any neighborhood in the United States.

I will never forget the face of men and women of all ages starving and desperate--the face of someone who lost everything or had nothing.

I will never forget the uncontrollable sobs from an elderly woman forced to start over.

I will never forget the joy on a man’s face who was offered hope, knowing that he could get money to start putting the pieces of his life back together.

I will never forget the seemingly therapeutic exhale of a young woman who was offered a second or third chance at life.

I will never forget the sound of gratitude from the voice of a 90-year-old woman whose house was gutted and cleared of everything that could have caused mold by a team of capable young people.

I experienced these things not because I am a survivor, but because I worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and FEMA partner in the 10-month FEMA Corps program. Just under 300, 18 to 24-year-old people travel cross country, to wherever they are needed to help those in need after a disaster strikes.

Community service may sound like a punishment to some, but to me it was a weight with which to balance the scales. I have been incredibly fortunate in my 23 years on this planet, in more ways than I can form words for. I felt as though it was my duty to disperse the good will I have been surrounded with. Call it spreading positive Karma, self-sacrifice, service to my country or a waste of time if you must, it was something that I needed to do.

My mother always told me to pay it forward (or was that Kevin Spacey?) An idea brought forth originally by Aristotle, the philosopher called it the Golden Mean.

The concept is that the energy you put out into the world, positive or negative, is what you expect to receive in return. My good fortune in life has been in large part cosmically random, as arguably random as a natural disaster striking.

While there are scientific reasons that some areas are prone to flooding and why hurricanes travel in certain paths, to the people that are affected, it is random. It is because of these random circumstances that create and alter the paths we choose and the lives we lead, that I felt compelled to help those in situations that could just as easily have been my own.

National service may sound intimidating, military even, but however you define it, at its core it is giving back to your country. I believe that it should be as respected in this country as military service.

My life was never on the line, I was safe from harm my entire 10-month term, but my sacrifice was still great. Leaving friends and family, having to coexist with nine strangers, sharing beds, living off a small stipend, receiving $4.75 per diem for food and never truly knowing if, when or where a new deployment would be issued.

For ten months I was military issue, wearing clunky black steel-toed boots and pants that are actually referred to as Battle Dress Uniform. I left everything that was comfortable, predictable and familiar to serve those in need. I left my life for ten months so that I could know what it is like helping people like Jill get back on their feet.

I am grateful for the opportunities FEMA Corps presented me with, but I am most appreciative of, and would recommend the program for, my new understanding of my place in this world.

The understanding that I am a part of this big, beautiful, scenic, scary and diverse melting pot of a country and to truly be a part of it, I must participate in it. It is my role to help make this country as great as so many say it is or can be.

Whether it is through serving breakfast to homeless people, providing love and attention to abused animals, Standing with Standing Rock or casting your vote on Voting Day, participation in all forms is what will make this country great.

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Sundell

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6 Things You Should Know About The Woman Who Can't Stand Modern Feminism

Yes, she wants to be heard too.

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2018 is sort of a trap for this woman. She believes in women with all of the fire inside of her, but it is hard for her to offer support when people are making fools of themselves and disguising it as feminism.

The fact of the matter is that women possess qualities that men don't and men possess qualities that women don't. That is natural. Plus, no one sees men parading the streets in penis costumes complaining that they don't get to carry their own fetus for nine months.

1. She really loves and values women.

She is incredibly proud to be a woman.

She knows the amount of power than a woman's presence alone can hold. She sees when a woman walks into a room and makes the whole place light up. She begs that you won't make her feel like a "lady hater" because she doesn't want to follow a trend that she doesn't agree with.

2. She wants equality, too

She has seen the fundamental issues in the corporate world, where women and men are not receiving equal pay.

She doesn't cheer on the businesses that don't see women and men as equivalents. But she does recognize that if she works her butt off, she can be as successful as she wants to.

3. She wears a bra.

While she knows the "I don't have to wear a bra for society" trend isn't a new one, but she doesn't quite get it. Like maybe she wants to wear a bra because it makes her feel better. Maybe she wears a bra because it is the normal things to do... And that's OK.

Maybe she wants to put wear a lacy bra and pretty makeup to feel girly on .a date night. She is confused by the women who claim to be "fighting for women," because sometimes they make her feel bad for expressing her ladyhood in a different way than them.

4. She hates creeps just as much as you do. .

Just because she isn't a feminist does not mean that she is cool with the gruesome reality that 1 in 5 women are sexually abused.

In fact, this makes her stomach turn inside out to think about. She knows and loves people who have been through such a tragedy and wants to put the terrible, creepy, sexually charged criminals behind bars just as bad as the next woman.

Remember that just because she isn't a feminist doesn't mean she thinks awful men can do whatever they want.

5. There is a reason she is ashamed of 2018's version of feminism.

She looks at women in history who have made a difference and is miserably blown away by modern feminism's performance.

Not only have women in the past won themselves the right to vote, but also the right to buy birth control and have credit cards in their names and EVEN saw marital rape become a criminal offense.

None of them dressed in vagina costumes to win anyone over though... Crazy, right?

6. She isn't going to dress in a lady parts costume to prove a point.

This leaves her speechless. It is like the women around her have absolutely lost their minds and their agendas, only lessening their own credibility.

"Mom, what are those ladies on TV dressed up as?"

"Ummm... it looks to me like they are pink taco's honey."

She loves who she is and she cherished what makes her different from the men around her. She doesn't want to compromise who she is as a woman just so she can be "equal with men."

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Patriotism Is More Than Putting The American Flag On Everything

Because honestly, people in other countries don't wear their flags like we do - and they still love where they live.

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Patriotism is "the feeling of loving your country more than any others and being proud of it," according to the Cambridge dictionary. Nowhere in that definition does it mention painting flags on vehicles or wearing them on our clothes is a requirement. It's not even recommended. Yet somewhere along the way, America got in its head that if you don't wear flags on your clothing at least 24 times a year, you must be committing treason or a terrorist or something.

Now I am obviously exaggerating! However, there are so many other ways to be patriotic, and it is time for 'Merica to understand that.

In order to love your country more than any others and be proud of it- AKA being patriotic- help make your country a place you should be proud of. Support things that not only benefit yourself but your children (or children in general if you don't have any of your own).

Maybe this means voting for higher taxes on yourself to improve the quality of life for others. Higher income taxes actually benefit the upper class because of write-offs, while higher sales taxes benefit the middle and lower classes. Why? Rich people buy more stuff and can't write it all off.

I know, I know, I know. This country was founded on the hatred of taxes. "Taxes are stealing." The whole bit. But taxes are a required part of life, so start thinking about how to best use them.

Universal healthcare is paid for through tax dollars. I get it- "that's socialist and we aren't a socialist country" or whatever your argument is, but hear me out... We are supposedly guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness... People cannot choose if they will be healthy or not. Not having universal healthcare means not everyone is insured and can go to the doctor, which means as a country we are telling people who cannot afford those things that their lives are somehow worth less... Is that not a denial of the unalienable rights we bragged about at our country's founding?

Oh, sorry, was that off topic? In order to have patriotism, we have to have something to be proud of... If we have a country full of sick people who can't get better, should we really be proud of that?

Should we really be proud of a country who seeks to destroy our environment for finite resources instead of looking to renewable energy sources to create cleaner power- and more jobs? Should we be proud of a country that thinks of diplomacy like a business? Should we be proud of a country where diversity is avoided, and we judge those different than ourselves despite claiming to be a melting pot?

Guess what? I'm not proud. I'm tired of living in a country that claims to be the best when it is only really number one at defense spending, arms exports, natural gas output, number of people incarcerated per capita, number of fast food restaurants, number of mass shootings per year, and highest medical costs.

I'm proud of those who have fought for our freedoms, be it at war or for civil rights at home, but I am not proud of what we've done with it all. I couldn't care less about how great our country was or can be. What I care about is living in a place where we take care of one another and want everyone to succeed, not just a handful of individuals at the expense of others. Life isn't a race- someone else's success or failure should not determine if you get the health care you need.

Paint your flags all over and ignore this if you like. Call me unpatriotic- I can handle it. If the state of America right now does not bother you, go on with your inaction. But patriotism has less to do with wearing flag bathing suits, and far more to do with being a contributing member of a society that does not stand for injustices. And right now, America, there are a lot of injustices.

I am patriotic; I am proud of the accomplishments in our past. But unless we start making advances and investments in a country and society that deserves pride... I'm ashamed to think of what is to come.

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