Saturday, August 02, 2008

The One True Week

Well, readers, just spent the last week at Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week. For the last few years, I've been trying to find just the right words to explain just why I give up a week of my life to go volunteer at what is essentially econ camp. If I stop to think about the vacation days, the drive, the money, and the time spent, I can't quite figure it out myself.

But that's logic speaking, and -- frankly -- logic doesn't seem to get me very far sometimes. Particularly when it comes to this week.

I could tell you about the friendships and how these men and women are some of the most amazing people that I've ever met, but it all sounds hollow because it doesn't do any of them justice.

I could tell you about the kids I had this year: seventeen teens that, just seven days ago, I never heard of let alone met. Those seventeen young adults are the best of the best in this state. They are the ones who don't need adults to guide them, not much anyway. These are the ones who just need the examples set and the occasional kick in the right direction. They'll go to college, they'll be successful. What they don't "get" now, more than likely will be "gotten" later as real life kicks in even further. But that sounds too teacher-ish, and "teacher" is certainly not what I'm aiming for.

I could even mention how this week centers me, grounds me, and reminds me of why I'm here. I could talk about how healing it was to return in '06 after I buried Dad. Somewhere, too, I could slip in mention of how Junior Achievement changed my life and that this is how I return the favor. But how might I do that without sounding maudlin or cliched?

Time after time, it's not enough.

You see, it's not about what is done. It's what is experienced. It's about being with people who are exactly what they are, no pretense.

On Wednesday night, we honored those volunteers, a.k.a. company advisers, who had reached their ten- and fifteen-year marks. I sat there and watched the crowd, taking in the old faces as well as the new. As always, I marvelled at everything that this week does for us, perhaps what it does to us.

It's the group, in truth. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but PFEW Week III by any other name simply isn't the same.

So this time, rather than try to sum it all up in quasi-brilliant prose, I'm going for truth: I have, I believe, grown up immeasurably since I first drove to Williamsport, PA, as a twenty-five-year-old first-year teacher fresh from the trenches of a public high school. At dinner this past Wednesday, Witmer joked that the Week III Company Advisers have watched me grow up emotionally. It gained a chuckle from the group and conversation moved on, but he was rather accurate. I think so anyway. For certain, readers, the nervous little girl I was a decade ago is no longer anywhere to be seen.

It was a remark that gave me pause, and I've been mulling it over ever since and turning it about in my head alongside the question of just why I am so illogical when it comes to PFEW Week III.

Then, finally, the so-called illogical reason that I come to PFEW finally hit me: I go to PFEW because I leave PFEW wanting to be a better person. I like the woman I am when I'm there.

It's something that I affectionately blame every single one of my fellow Week III'ers for that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Michelle -- can I call you Michelle, now that I'm all grown up and such? Or do you prefer Miki? Still sounds wierd.

I'm that "cavalier" student you seemingly disapproved of from earlier this decade. I went to PFEW with your recommendation, and it was a significant event in my life.

So I suppose you left WT. Where/what are you doing now? If you remember me, and are on Facebook, drop me a line.