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Finding Common Ground in Dallas through Community & Service

August 15, 2016

headshotToday’s guest blog is written by Dallas-Fort Worth native Nate Russell who is  currently serving on Points of Light’s AmeriCorps Ready Corps team (see full bio below). 

By the time I graduated from FEMA Corps, I knew I’d end up serving again, but what I didn’t anticipate was the profound impact that these ten months would leave on me.

I’d been volunteering with the American Red Cross when I was given a chance to once again don the AmeriCorps “A” for the Dallas-Fort Worth Ready Corps team. Throughout this year, I’ve prepared my community for disasters and supported Red Cross relief efforts when flooding, fires, and tornadoes hit my area. I felt prepared for almost anything, but nothing could have prepared me for the event that led to the deaths of Officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael J. Smith.

emergency vehicleMy AmeriCorps service quickly shifted focus to support the immediate and long-term community rebuilding after the shooting. The very next day, I found myself riding in an emergency response vehicle up and down Lamar, Commerce, and Elm streets, to help pass out water, snacks, and food. We passed out supplies to everyone we saw from police and firefighters, to FBI and bomb squad members, to media crews who came from as far away as Japan, England, and Israel. We also gave to the homeless we met along the way. Each person we saw was more somber than the last.

I’m sharing my story with you now, because I want people to remember the strength of Dallas as well as its struggles. I was hesitant to share my story at first. I thought the subject matter seemed a little out of my weight class. I wondered what I could possibly say to the nearly one million AmeriCorps members and alums throughout the country to help them understand what it’s like serving in Dallas right now.

Those first few days after the shooting, the air in the city was almost heavier than I could bear. There were hundreds of men and women in uniform, each as solemn as pallbearers.

But the most uplifting thing that I felt in that moment, was a solidarity throughout the city that I had never seen before. On some level, everyone present understood that we were in this recovery together. The air was still with solemnity, but it was also warm with compassion.

The events that unfolded in Dallas were an extreme example of what can happen when we don’t come together and seek common ground in the face of conflict – one of our core tenets. As AmeriCorps members, we embrace the humanity in everyone, not just in those most familiar to us. We’re taught to break those simple heuristics that govern compulsory snap judgments. We ask not who we serve, but merely how best we can serve them, and I think that is what makes us the best equipped to face the problems of tomorrow.

Moving forward, let us not forget our creed to seek common ground when faced with conflict. I know it’s a lesson I’ll carry with me long after my year of service, along with a faith in the resilient power of communities and the strength of the people therein.

Nate Rusell Bio: A Dallas-Fort Worth native, Nate Russell is  currently serving on the Points of Light’s AmeriCorps Ready Corps team. He is also a graduate from FEMA Corps’ Southwest Region Class 21B. When not serving his community by wrestling tornadoes and rescuing puppies, Nate is a freelance writer. Feel free to connect with him via email.

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