© 2012 Daniel 010

Thanks for All the Fish

Dear friends,

This last week of March marked the beginning of my last three months in Bulgaria.

Over seventy volunteers attended the close-of-service conference in the town of Sliven. We spent three days discussing administrative responsibilities and re-integration into American life. We also said some final farewells to one another.

I’m not too sad. We’re a worldly bunch – globetrotters, explorers, and adventurers – and the notion that people on the other side of the country will be “too far” for friendship is silly to me. A nine hour train ride is a regular thing in Bulgaria; it takes half that time to fly from New York City to Los Angeles. And anyways, friendships die from lack of substance, not excess of distance.

Did I build anything with substance while I was here? We’ll see. People have spent two years in worse ways, and my time in Bulgaria has, at the very least, profoundly changed the direction of my life. The most sustainable project in which the Peace Corps engages is the building of young men and women as world citizens. You cannot experience a reality in which people not entirely unlike yourself permanently reside but have to subsist with a dearth of resources, then escape to a haven to forget the meaning of hunger, poverty, and lost opportunity.

At the organized dinner, our country director, Mikel, read a quote from William Faulker’s Nobel banquet speech that I liked.

It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

It’s something to think about. I think it contributes great insight into what is important in maintaining our humanity in an era where everything is seemingly defined by metrics. A smart man or a strong man is a good thing because he can put his talents to work for the world; a good man is better because he will.

Perhaps Peace Corps director Aaron Williams had something similar in mind when he said that the program’s volunteers represent the best America has to offer. As flattering as it would be, we aren’t nearly the smartest, most talented, or most experienced group of people around. But we have soul, and that’s the best that humanity has to offer.

Daniel

One Comment

  1. Katelyn
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 4:15 am | #

    Wonderful words Dan, I greatly enjoyed reading this one :)

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