In Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” she writes, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
Throughout the past week of training, I have been asking summer staffers about their life dreams, and I have heard a variety of answers. When I think of a life dream, I think about how I want my life to feel, what I want my body to love. ASP allows people’s dreams to mingle. During staff training, young adults from across the country gather in Jonesville, Virginia. They come from different colleges, hometowns, and life experiences. They gather on “the porch,” their dreams and differences packed in their bags, and prepare for an Appalachian summer.
Grace, a first-year staffer in Knott County, Kentucky, wants to be a journalist and eventually write a book. She is inspired by Joan Didion’s ability to write about real life with lyrical language, and she can see herself someday writing about Appalachia.
Emma, a returning staffer in Harlan County, Kentucky, wants to help eradicate injustice by working in local government. She marvels at the sense of purpose she feels while working for ASP and hopes to spend her life pursuing purpose through serving others.
Lindsey, a first-year staffer in Lee County, Virginia, finds beauty, unity, and peace through music. She believes all people are musical, both literally and figuratively, and she wants to be happy while showing how music can heal or change a life.
Noah, a first-year staffer in Nicholas County, West Virginia, wants to spend his life using empathy to make others feel good. He is thankful for his ability to be there for people who need his emotional support.
Andrea, a staff liaison, wants to teach at an inner-city school in Philadelphia. Through teaching, she hopes to empower students to recognize their sense of worth.
Despite their different dreams, their different pursuits of purpose, staffers are united through their desire to walk alongside the people of Appalachia.
Mary Oliver ends her poem by writing, “The world offers itself to your imagination. Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” Home repair in rural Appalachia connects many different people, but we all have a place in this world, on this porch, and, this summer, in Appalachia.
Jamie Tews is the Advancement Storytelling Intern this summer writing a weekly blog series titled “This Must Be The Place.” Prior to this summer, she was on staff in Breathitt County, Kentucky in 2016, Leslie County, Kentucky in 2017, and roamed around Appalachia as a staff liaison in 2018. She just graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Writing, and she has plans to pursue an MFA in creative writing.