by Frances Harte, SCA Staff
In the end, I think this is what really defines SCA for me.
Last month I was down in Stamford, CT, visiting and working with the Conservation Leadership Crews (CLC) and the volunteers from GE. The weather was decidedly iffy and at times it really poured. But that didn’t stop us from sprucing up and repairing the trails at the Stamford Nature Center, which badly needed the help.
In only its second summer, the Stamford CLC has brought 36 young men and women together, serving on four crews on meaningful projects all around the city. On this July day, it was enough, later at our celebratory lunch, to look out at the array of blue (SCA) and green (GE) shirts and the beautiful and diverse faces, young and older, to know that this is a successful program.
Before lunch, of course, real work was being accomplished. Even the rain was helpful, as the crew carefully examined the water bars that had been built the day before, to see which were performing as intended and which needed more work. The crew members led SCA staff and the GE volunteers in lopping overhanging branches (that was me!), moving boulders (I watched three blue shirts and a green one wielding rock bars in unison), and constructing a rock ledge. Again I stopped to watch the construction going on, only on rest breaks, naturally.
But in looking closely, I saw that so much more was going on at that construction site. At work together were two people—a 40ish professional gentleman from GE and a young man in high school who in the normal course of their days might never encounter each other. And if they did, the comfort level on both sides might be less than ideal. Yet here they were, two heads bent over a single rock, bent on determining its position in the rock ledge, and bent on making it right. They were still at it through the rains, and when we broke for lunch to meet up with the Mayor and the other work crews, they were very reluctant to leave the task unfinished.
Perhaps a small demonstration of what SCA is all about but a significant one nonetheless. SCA brings all kinds of people together to accomplish work with tangible results. “There, I helped build that rock ledge and it’s perfect. It’s doing the job it’s supposed to do.” Every time I have the opportunity to work alongside SCA’s crews, I marvel not only at the work that gets done but also at all those intangibles I can see developing in the crew members. These are the program goals that I write about all the time in proposals and reports to our funders—increased self-esteem, self-confidence, conflict resolution, leadership and teamwork skills and problem-solving. These are goals in action, not just in words. How about that!
But what I really noticed in Stamford last month was an extraordinary amount of patience on display, a rare commodity in our world today and something that I don’t think can be easily taught. Patience is what can give us the time to reflect, rather than react; what can keep us functioning successfully alongside people very different from ourselves. It may just be what we really need in order to have a civil society and create responsible citizens. And maybe all it takes is that search for the perfect rock.
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