Summer in Collinsville Brings Unforgettable Gifts
I cried the day I had to leave Collinsville. There was not a day during my ten weeks that I looked forward to leaving, and the final week of my internship crept up on me and reality hit hard. Through my tears I told my mom, “I can’t leave here for good. I keep believing I’m just taking a break and I’ll be back.”
I can’t thank the town enough for the hugs I’ve received and the conversations that have given me a glimpse of life in a small town. Thank you all for letting me into your world for however briefly and accepting my ideas with open minds.
I thank each of the parents and kids who participated in the programs I was nervous to create. You showed me that giving in to my fear of failure would have prevented the most fulfilling part of my summer. Thank you even more for encouraging me each week by spreading the word and bringing friends along. I am grateful for your enthusiasm about and loyalty to the library.
Thank you Miss Margaret and Ms. Linda. You two ladies kept my days filled with laughter and shared wisdom far beyond how to use the library database. I was taught about life and love and following your passions, believing in yourself and leaning on your family. Thank you both for being half the reason I looked forward to coming in each day.
Naomi and Zack, you two were my partners in crime. I am so lucky that I had friends to run around with every day, help me with the book clubs, and show me countless YouTube videos and games. Thank you both for bringing out my inner child and for keeping me happy and laughing all day long.
To Coach Taylor: your life story is incredible. I loved reading about the Goobers and Nuts and was so proud to hear you read your stories to the elementary kids. The way you have transformed the opportunities for the youth in Collinsville is my inspiration for changing a community for the better. Your short stories and our long conversations have reminded me of the importance of honoring my memories and valuing those I love. I hope someday I have the phenomenal friendships you have cultivated and the stories to match.
To Mrs. Brenda Williams, thank you for being my first home here. You have a kind, generous soul, and I am grateful that you knew all of the kids my age at church. Without your introductions, it would have been a much less exciting ten weeks.
To Mr. Mark and Mrs. Patricia: leaving you guys was so hard, I had to extend my stay a night. I was so lucky to have such a wonderful host family, and I assure you I’ll be back before long—hopefully I’ll visit so much we’ll get sick of each other and the goodbyes won’t be as hard.
Mark, you gave me all of these snippets of wisdom that my Dad wasn’t alive long enough to share, and I know he’d have been proud to know you. I’m grateful for the belly laughs and the daily back-and-forths we shared. I loved the tour of the firehouse and rescue squad, and I felt so special climbing up in the trucks and snooping around.
Mrs. Pat, you kept me full all day every day. I cherish each recipe you taught me. I will never eat whipped cream out of a can again. Thank you for treating me like an adult but providing for me like I was your daughter. I was very, truly, incredibly blessed by you both.
Mr. Myles, I can’t believe I won’t see you every week and run around Frog Pond with all our little kids, eating popsicles and reading stories. You were always ready for a spontaneous lunch date or to give me a tour of the town. You introduced me to Little Collinsville and the Museum, as well as the barbershop, China House, and Huddle House. You gave me tours of all the places Collinsville is proud of, and I could visualize the stories of the thriving town Collinsville was when you were a boy. I was in awe of all the friends you had around town and the ease at which you introduced me to each part of your life. You were my closest, truest friend here, and I will miss you dearly when I’m gone.
And Miss Jennifer, I can’t ever begin to express how grateful I am for you. From hand picking me to come share the library this summer, to encouraging me with each idea I suggested, to helping me step out of my comfort zone and introducing me to some of the kindest, most genuine folks I’ve ever met, I owe this fantastic summer to you. While weeks didn’t unfold according to our original plans, you showed me versatility, patience, and humility as we helped reach out to the community and become a place where everyone was welcome. The relationships you have with seemingly every person in the community motivate me to know and understand the people around me, wherever I end up next. I am so humbled by your trust in me and confidence in all that I can accomplish.
My time with Living Democracy has helped my self esteem soar, showing me that my plans can be turned into actions and those actions into rewards. I have been encouraged by the outreach work we have done here to help impact and strengthen the community. I am amazed by the pride each person holds in their town and the hope they have for what it can become. I am proud to have been a part of it, for however briefly, and I hope they will think of me as fondly as I’ll remember them.
By Shaye McCauley
Last Updated: July 29, 2014