Doing the best we can with what we got

So it has finally come, our last night in the amazing little town of Pulaski, VA and I can honestly say I will miss this place immensely. I have learned so many amazing things while I was here and met some of the most extraordinary people in the world. While it would be impossible to put everything I learned in this blog I will do my best to point out the most important.

1. It’s not always what you do that’s important, sometimes it’s how you do it. So many of the things we have done this week are not unique or special to Pulaski, they are things that happen everywhere. What is very unique to Pulaski though is the way in which they do these ordinary things. You can find a food pantry anywhere, but only in Pulaski will you find a food drive set up like a super market so that those that need it are more willing to ask for help and also give these people a sense of normalcy and humanity. Everywhere there is a natural disaster people will come to help rebuild, but only in Pulaski will you have people give up their career and professional life to serve their community full time and do it with a smile on their face. Service is great, but service with a smile changes a community.

2. Anybody can be great, because anybody can serve. Of course this is a paraphrase of Dr. King but my time here in Pulaski has really shown me the meaning of these words. When I said I met some of the most extraordinary people here this week I meant it. They were extraordinary not because they donated thousands of dollars, or invented something great, or because they are award winning scholars but simply, and amazingly because they have decided to devote their life to service. They are the most inspirational people I have ever met. And it’s true, anybody can do service as long as they realize that somewhere, someone needs them and are willing to act on that.

3. A kids smile can brighten up any room I was fortunate enough to step outside my comfort zone this week and work with kids; something that is not exactly my forte. I quickly realized how easy it is to make a kid smile and how easily that smile can brighten up even your darkest days. If you can make a kid feel like he matters, even if only for a few days, hours, minutes or even seconds then you will do anything to make that happen because kids deserve to smile. You can’t change their life situations, or upbringing, or most things for that matter but you can always make a kid smile, and if you have that opportunity then it must become a duty, a responsibility and most of all a privilege.

4. There’s a right thing to do and a popular thing. You can make the right thing popular, but the popular thing is not always right. This was imparted upon me by one of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, Bill. Bill was the most sarcastic, intelligent, wise and caring man you will ever meet. Bill has accomplished so much in his life and done so many amazing things for the town of Pulaski but takes no credit and wants no attention for it. He believes that to be in the public eye means to be bound by what is popular at the time, not what is right, and Bill’s only motivation in life is to do what is right for his community. He walked away from a very lucrative business so that he could devote all his time to tornado disaster relief and home rebuilds. So please, listen to Bill and work to make what is right into what is popular because if what’s popular isn’t what is right then people who desperately need help will never get it.

5. It takes a village to raise a village. No you did not read that wrong, I meant to say village twice. My time here in Pulaski has helped me realize one thing, only communities can solve community problems. Sadly, you cannot rely on the government to provide the support they should to struggling communities, but what you can rely on is one another. When you have people like the ones here in Pulaski, people willing to lend a helping hand to anyone who needs it and put themselves second or even last, then you have no option but to succeed. While Pulaski has been going through tough times, the only way this place will fail is if the people here let it. They love their community so much that they will help with anything they can if it means improving the community by even the slightest bit.

6. Patch Adams was right, laughter is the best medicine. If there is one thing my group likes to do it is laugh, and laugh loud. Some of the issues we deal with are some really complicated and frustrating issues so laughter really is needed to get through the week. However, the best laughter, and the one that truly rang through the loudest was that of the citizens of Pulaski. Even the people coming through the food line, with next to nothing in their possession would laugh, and they would make you laugh too. No matter the situation, there was always laughter in the air in Pulaski and a smile on everyone’s faces. If the people of this town can still laughter after what they have gone through and continue to go through then so can you! Nothing makes you smile more than seeing someone with almost nothing brighten up the room
with their personality and smile.

7. You do the best you can with what you got. This was another gem from Bill, but one that could be the official motto of Pulaski, VA. This is a poor town with not much but tornado damage so they don’t have a lot of material things but they sure so have a lot of heart. I never once heard a single person complain about not having enough, or what they want. The only thing I heard was gratitude for every little thing they received. That’s what this town is all about, not complaining about the situation they are in but instead figuring out what they have to work with and making the best out of every situation. This is probably the most important thing I learned from Pulaski, and something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

8. Square dancing is a lot more fun than you think. Really nothing tricky to this one. We went to this square dance and had a blast! While I was a little apprehensive at first, I had an amazing dance partner (shoutout to Bonnie) and I’m glad she got me out on the floor because I had an awesome time.

I wish I could tell you everything I learned this week but that is just too much and plus that might stop you from visiting this outstanding little town in Virginia. If you ever get a chance to visit, or you are looking for a life changing experience that will brighten your outlook on the world, come to Pulaski ASAP. I will be sad when I leave this place tomorrow and the people I have met but I know I will be back again because Pulaski will always have a place in my heart.

Thanks for everything Pulaski! Until next time,

Mark Martinez


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