Identity in a Nalgene

While working with Houston Parks and Recreation doing non-native invasive species removal  at Kieth Weiss Park I came across a sight that drew both my eye and my camera.  Sitting on a bench beside the path was a row of Nalgenes and water bottles, each one left by one of my team members in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) as we headed back to work after a short break.  Immediately, I could tell which water bottle belonged to which member of my team, Sun 7.  Each one had its own personality, style and character just like the unique and diverse personalities of each individual team member. 

Like each one of the water bottles on that bench, each and every single one of us, whether we are serving in NCCC or not, are different.  Here in the AmeriCorps NCCC program, we come from many different states, from different backgrounds, from different experiences, but we have all come here to serve.  We all have the same purpose.

At the beginning of our journey with NCCC, each of us received a Nalgene with the AmeriCorps ‘A’ plastered on the side.  Many of us have decorated them, covering them with stickers.  They have become scratched and marked.  We have made them our own.  In the past two and a half months these simple water bottles have become reflections of who we are.  They have become extensions of our own personalities. 

Some of us, like myself, have plastered stickers to their sides, revealing to those we serve and serve alongside our passions and inspirations.  Some of these stickers have begun to peel, decay and fall apart from all the stress that we have put them through. 

Others have simply marked theirs or know theirs from the marks, scuffs, scratches and damage that covers their surface.  Others have tied pieces of ribbon, thread, bandanas or road race tags to the loop that connects the cap.  Still others have replaced their black cap with one of another color, put in splash guards or replaced theirs all together due to loss, damage or need for more water. 

These containers reveal who we are as individuals.  Just by looking at what people choose (or not choose) to put on their Nalgene reveals whether or not they are outspoken, reserved, eccentric, artistic, quiet, passionate and/or extroverted or introverted. 

No matter how someone chooses to reveal themselves, we cannot treat them like a book cover.  We must come to know one another on a deeper level to truly understand who they are and why they reveal certain things about themselves. 

Although we can tell a lot about a person by the way the outside looks, be it a water bottle, their car, or the way they dress, people are more complex than a simple container.  It’s what’s inside that counts.  And with a Nalgene, it’s usually just water. 

God Bless and PEACE

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