The schedule for our YAGM program follows the US academic calendar, or perhaps more broadly, the academic calendar of the Northern Hemisphere. It makes for an interesting dynamic around this time of year.
Autumn is coming on strong here in Australia. The leaves are changing and falling from the trees. Night comes earlier. It is increasingly difficult to dry clothes on the line as the shadows are long by mid-afternoon. And even though the winters here are mild, and without snow, there is a chill in the air; a cold that sets in during the night and makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning.
Our current volunteers are in the Autumn of their time of service. There are signs of the end as they think about saying goodbye, ending their service, letting go. There’s a melancholy about leaving the place they have grown to love. Some have made very close friends. Some have walked along side others through hard times, through laughter, and tears, celebrations, baptisms, and birthdays.
Now the volunteers turn toward home. For some it is a bigger step of faith to return back to the US than it was to come to Australia. Some do not want to live at home. Some are leery of the political climate that they will be returning to. Some are excited to see friends and family in person. Some are not sure what the future holds and the darkness of uncertainty looms behind the goodbye parties and final selfie collections.
I recently visited the US and it was bursting with spring. Tiny shoots of vegetable gardens were beginning to surface. Tulips were in bloom. Trees and bushes were bare but bursting with color. There was a palpable excitement of growth, newness, and change.
We have 8 new volunteers committed to serve in Australia starting in August. Like the bursting spring, they are excited about what lies ahead for them. In small ways they are beginning to dip their toes into exploring this country they will call home for a year – a website here, a news article there. Growth and change are on the horizon but it is the mere prospect of such things that excites this new group.
Seasons mark our lives. We see the rhythms of embrace and letting go throughout the years. These volunteers, current and future, stand in this current of change. A page in their story will soon turn.