Marva Butler, NYC Civic Corps Member
"Service is the rent we pay for living. It is not something to do in your spare time; it is the very purpose of life."
The economic crisis has, if anything, offered me a fresh, honest and real perspective on the fluidity of life. Just a few months ago, I found myself in a position that I never imagined I could or would be in. I did everything that a college student was supposed to do: work hard, study hard, network, gain valuable work and service experiences, all to no avail. In what seemed to be an instant, I watched my educational investment lose its return on value as graduation day approached and there were no possible job prospects. At that time I felt defeated, discouraged and believed that I had personally failed somewhere. But in actuality I was not alone. I was entering “the toughest labor market in at least 25 years”. No, I was not alone. In fact, this economic downturn had not only affected me and other graduates or those in hopes of finding a job, but also corporations and organizations alike. We were all trying to figure out the next steps to take to ensure that something like this never happened again, and how to transform this setback into an opportunity.
In these low moments, while all the pieces lay scattered in front of me, I began to consider the things that held the most value in my life, for these would be the things that could withstand my current circumstance. My thoughts quickly went to my family, community, friends, and teachers because of their unmitigated support and encouragement. I also remember the feelings of gratitude I’ve felt towards those who have helped me through difficulties, and how I felt about helping others. These could not be diminished by an external crisis and they offered far more than a post-graduate diploma. Then I asked myself “What have I learned from these values that could be applied towards my current situation?” How could I use my values, my passion, my education and this new found time for good? By happenstance, the answer landed in my inbox.
I received an email about Mayor Bloomberg’s new initiative to increase service and civic engagement in the NYC area through the NYC Civic Corps. In America’s largest metro city, two hundred dynamic and educated people, passionate about community service, would set out to initiate a new wave of service in our country. The pay and benefits were meager and the work was for a year in a city that I had never been before. While I was no stranger to service, the idea of sacrificing not only pay, but also the ability to live as I have known for years in exchange for a year of service to America, was out of my realm of thinking. On July 30, 2009, I answered the call to service and was sworn in on the steps of City Hall.
Now having begun work with Spoons Across America, a non-profit organization focused on providing food and nutrition education to children, teachers and families, I realize the affect the economic downturn has had on non-profit organizations. I find that my story is no different than theirs. Funding sources have diminished, now this organization, along with many others, are finding hope and sustainability in the energy of the people. I’m honored to be apart the Spoons family, and apart of this new wave of energy that is selflessly dedicated toward the greater good of mankind. Community service is essential to a persons being, and is proving to be a beacon of hope for many people and organizations alike who are striving to make it through these rocky times. Harnessing volunteerism will be what is needed to usher in a new movement of thinking and living in order to sustain ourselves, our communities, our organizations and…our country.