Olive Prusakowski, Communications and Community Outreach Fellow, reflects on their idea of service and its relation to being a part of a community.
Before serving with the Resilience Corps, I spent four months in an entirely different form of service with the Maine Conservation Corps. I went from spending every day in the woods of Maine as a part of a trail crew to sitting behind my laptop in my cramped apartment in Portland as the Communications and Community Outreach fellow. It is hard not to compare the two experiences, and I expected the dramatic lifestyle change would take some time to get used to. After spending some time at GPCOG, I quickly realized my qualms and takeaways about both types of service really didn’t differ. On my bad days on the trail, I would reflect on what difference it made when I chose a slightly smoother rock as a steppingstone. Similarly, during my first two months with the Resilience Corps, I often have found myself wondering how impactful tasks like posting on social media or taking meeting notes were. I know that any change comes from a series of small tasks. Without all the small working parts, both Maine’s impressive trail system and an organization like GPCOG wouldn’t exist. In both experiences what has helped me cope with feeling small is the interactions with the people in the community I am serving and with the community I serve alongside.
Although I am not living and working with the same five people for four months, my time at GPCOG has given me a different opportunity to find community within the people I am serving with. I not only have begun to connect with my fellow Resilience Corps fellows, but I have found a communal relationship with my supervisor, GPCOG’s Communications Director, Tom Bell. It was within my work with Tom that I uncovered the overlap between the community I serve and the community I serve with.
Tom and I are working on a video to recruit bus drivers for transit agencies in the greater Portland area. The video is a part of GPCOG’s effort to support transit agencies in increasing their ridership and encouraging the public to utilize public transportation. In the time, that Tom and I spent interviewing the drivers, there was a commonality among their favorite things about the job: to interact with riders and help them in any way they can. We spent an afternoon driving around and talking to Paulino Castillo, a driver for the Greater Portland Metro. Along with sharing moments of laughter and the music he creates in his off time, Paulino shared a story that in his eyes marks the most important part of his job. He recalled seeing a man with a broken foot, running late, trying to make it to the bus stop. Of course, Paulino stopped and waited for the man to make it to a bus that in other cases would have been missed. This might not sound like a big deal, but with public transportation being so hard to navigate and the frustration of not being able to get where you need to go, this moment made the difference in this man’s day. So much so, that he went out of his way to contact Paulino’s supervisors and tell them how great of a driver and person Paulino was.
In the man’s appreciation for Paulino’s kindness, he gave back to him. They both in their own ways were serving each other. To serve your community means letting your community serve you. Generally, even if someone is not in a particular position that would fall under the category of “service”, we as members of the same community typically would like to serve each other when given the chance. It is true that communities are layered and complex, but it is also true that when you give a small moment of your time, the energy that you give out gets passed around in other forms. Talking to Paulino reminded me why I serve. We are all in this together; the community I do my best to serve is serving others alongside me. In moments of apparent insignificance, I remember how every small moment of kindness inspires or leads to another moment of kindness somewhere that I might not even be aware of. Despite being aware of the many communities that make up the geographical area we reside in, it is important to take the time to recognize the greater Portland community at its largest, most overarching size.
Olive grew up in Wayne, New Jersey. They attended Montclair State University where they studied English with a concentration in Creative Writing. They have always loved spending time outdoors and after a season of trail work with the Maine Conservation Corps, they grew an attachment to Maine’s natural world. Olive is eager to learn how to make a greater impact on local communities through the nonprofit sector and local government. They enjoy many hobbies including bouldering, writing and crocheting. In their free time you can also find them reading in a quiet place in the woods, probably surrounded by a lot of moss. They are excited to build a stronger relationship to the Greater Portland area and the people who live there through their passion for building and maintaining supportive communities big and small.