Mr. and Mrs. Andre Massenburg should be very proud of their son. I never met him, but over the past six years, I have had the honor and privilege of working with scores of AmeriCorps kids. Every one of them made me proud. Many of them were giving a year of their lives to America before starting college or joining the armed services like Joseph.
Others had graduated college but also were volunteering before going off to graduate school or a career. They all would say the same things. They wanted to help less fortunate people. They wanted to do something that would make a difference. They wanted to help.
Another thing they always said was that they wanted to learn. With me they learned how to wire a house or plumb a house or frame a house. They learned how to work with their hands in the heat and humidity of a New Orleans summer. They worked long and hard hours. And they did this while being paid barely enough to survive on. They bought bread and peanut butter and jelly with the food stamps that they qualified for. They never complained.
Over the three months that I would get to spend with them, we would become close. Many of them have stayed in touch with me for years afterward, and they have all done well. Sometimes their parents might visit, and I always made a point of telling their parents that they should be very proud of their son or daughter. They were.
When I read the headline that an AmeriCorps volunteer had been killed, my heart broke. I thought of all my AmeriCorps kids, and how I would feel if Joseph had been one of them.
So my heart goes out to you Mr. and Mrs. Massenburg, and to the kids of Joseph’s team. I can’t imagine the pain they are feeling.
And no one could put it better than Mr. Massenburg did when he said, “This is the tragic reality of the inner cities. This is reality. No one’s kid should have to suffer this.”
He said Joseph was a giving young man, and I know he was. They all are. They are all our children. We should all share the pride in them and share the heartbreak and pain that one of them was senselessly killed and taken from us. We should learn from them and get involved and make a difference in their honor.
So, Mr. and Mrs. Messenburg should be very, very proud of Joseph. I know I am.
Dave Holt, construction specialist
Neighborhood Housing Service