We are deeply saddened by the recent death of Joseph Massenburg, the AmeriCorps member who was killed while serving with his NCCC team in New Orleans. Joseph, a native of the Chicago area, was only eighteen years old and was only weeks in to his term of service.
This tragedy is affecting on so many levels. While the loss of any young life is heartbreaking, the magnitude of this loss extends even further. It impacts not only his family, friends, and team members, but also the AmeriCorps community, and beyond that, it impacts all of us as human beings.
On the surface, the circumstances of Joseph’s death are a sad indication of the extent to which we have allowed violence to blossom in our cities and neighborhoods. By this criterion alone, we should try to reverse the momentum. But even more imperatively, we must consider this young man’s dedication to service. Joseph’s loss is multiplied infinitely in all the lives he would undoubtedly have touched in his future had he been granted one. And that cannot be ignored.
We must all work to ensure that this tragedy is not in vain. We cannot afford for the impact Joseph would have made to be lost as well.
On a large scale, Joseph’s loss underscores the burgeoning need for AmeriCorps to continue not only to exist, but to thrive. For the work it accomplishes, the opportunity it fosters for its members, and most importantly, for the spirit of giving it facilitates: we need AmeriCorps. We need it not only for the sake of those directly impacted, but also for the invaluable contribution of these intangibles in creating a better world for all of us.
On a smaller scale, we should all strive to nurture Joseph’s spirit of giving in our own lives and the lives of those around us. I am personally moved to find more opportunities to serve, but I think even small acts of selflessness are valuable.
It is my sincerest belief that our energies combined can make a meaningful impact. I only hope that it is worthy of Joseph’s legacy.
(Post by Caitlin Closser, AmeriCorps Alums Chicago Leadership Committee)