Arrival of New Members


By: Ryan Yeh

I had never really been a new kid before. I went to the same school from kindergarten to the twelfth grade, and following high school, I stayed at the same college for four years. About one month ago, the eight five-month members joined the eighteen ten-month members here in Hawley. As one of the new members, I definitely felt nervous about integrating and assimilating with the already existing close group. I was nervous about not fitting in and having trouble becoming close with the ten-month members because the ten-month members would know more. They would know more fun things to do in the area, who would want to participate in activities, and how the facilities worked. Most importantly, I worried that they would already have friends and, therefore, not need any more. Despite my fears, I hoped that these obstacles would eventually be overcome, and I would successfully find myself as a valuable member of the community, someone who connects with others and has something to contribute.

One of the main reasons why I wanted to join the SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps was the community. Following my graduation from college last spring, I moved to a new city to begin my new job. I had only a couple of friends there, and I was a six-hour plane ride away from my family. I had hoped that making friends wouldn’t be too hard, but it ended up being a significant challenge exacerbated by the transition to adulthood. When I realized I wanted to change things in my life, the first thing that came to mind was my job. However, after spending more time thinking about it, I realized what was wrong was rooted in the lack of community. Even though I did not love my job, it would have been a lot better if I felt more connected with my coworkers and neighbors.

When I arrived here I found a community unlike any I had been a member of before. This community holds hands in a circle before dinner, sleeps in one room, and has basically no private space. Most of the food is shared, intense water saving measures are in place, and cell service is non-existent. I needed to learn a lot and to change the way I had been living in order to fit in. The ten-month members taught me how to live in Hawley and made me feel welcome. Inside jokes were explained to me, games were taught, and I felt a conscious effort toward keeping me involved. We had community meetings where bunks were shifted and a new community contract was created. I began learning about the wide array of interests that people have here and even began sharing some of my interests with others. While I still don’t feel as connected as the ten-month members are, I can tell I am beginning to make relationships that will grow throughout the season.

In Hawley, I find myself in a situation similar to after college; I am living in a new place without existing friends and am starting a new job. But things are different here. I am a member of a strong community. If I want to talk to somebody, I can just walk into the kitchen and someone will be there. At dinner, I have conversations about ornithology, knitting, or favorite ice cream flavors. I can also shovel snow, clean dishes, or carry water up to the bathroom and feel useful. I am not entirely sure what transforms a group of people into a community, or what about being a part of a community makes me feel good, but I am finding it here.