In November 1996, I was a lost teenager and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I happened upon an opportunity to be involved with the Glassmen organization.
For 3 years I learned more about the realities of life than I had in the 18 years prior. There were a few alumni from years before me who were still around to serve. Some drove busses, some trucks, some taught, and some volunteered, but there wasn’t a huge presence.
When I got out, I had a bun in the oven and started the life that Glassmen had prepared me for. I went to a show here and there… made it out for family day with my new family of 2, and then 3, and then 4, and then 5… but I never really committed to giving back. The more I came around, the more I felt like an outsider.
After a few years, the kids who were on the field didn’t feel like my brothers and sisters… they felt like complete strangers. I didn’t send money that one time because I didn’t have it. Then that other time, it was because my kids needed something. There always seemed to be a reason I couldn’t send money. I was going to go to that one family day and show support for my corps, but my kid had summer camp so I couldn’t make it. Then that one show was on a Sunday and I was afraid I was going to get back late and had to work Monday. So there always seemed to be a reason I started missing shows, too.
After a while, I stopped looking at the calendar to see if it worked because it just wasn’t a priority in the grand scheme of things. I moved on. Glassmen moved on. Life was happening.
Then one day in August I opened Facebook and noticed the director that I started with, had resigned. The guy who once saved my life, who I let become a mere facebook acquaintance, was gone. It was the first indication to me that there was a problem. It was the first time in 12 years that I realized I had completely abandoned my family. They made me who I am today. The friends, the staff, the volunteers, the entire experience gave me the ability to succeed in my life.
I read the “media release” probably 20 times over and over again with tears streaming down my eyes after about the 3rd time through it. When I logged on again and saw that a new campaign had been started to “Save the Glassmen,” I realized there was a lot more going on and my corps was in serious trouble. Glassmen taught me how to handle tough situations and to think quickly but carefully, and make the right decisions. At that moment though, I felt completely lost and had no idea what to do. I felt like the ground I was walking on had been broken beneath me.
So when I finally realized that there was no way I could win the lottery and donate enough money to bring this organization out of their financial woes, I decided the next best thing was to do all that I could to help in whatever way I could. I signed up to volunteer at the work weekend prior to the first camp.
I took my oldest kid and we went to clean up. I cleared my schedule and signed up for the 1st camp so I could be there for whatever I was needed for. I cleared my schedule for the 2nd camp (and let down my middle son whose birthday was that Friday) and showed up to help out again. I cleared my schedule for January and planned to attend the 3rd camp, but at the beginning of the year I received the same news as everyone else that the corps was going dark.
This news felt like death. I wanted to curl up in my bed and just cry until it stopped hurting. I actually did for awhile, but it wasn’t working. I realized it wasn’t going to work because I would continue to live with the regret that I did very little for 12 years, and then gave up at the end. I decided to continue what I had started, and be wherever I was needed, and do whatever I could do for my corps.
I’m back because I have to be. I’m back because I want to give all that I can and fight as hard as I can to bring this corps back until it takes its very last breath. My corps is on life support, and while it would be easy to pull the plug and start the grieving process, I am not giving up until all life-sustaining efforts have been exhausted. Glassmen didn’t give up on me when I needed the Glassmen. I’m not about to give up on the Glassmen.
Many alumni have many different stories. While I simply feel guilty for my absence, I know some were literally screwed. Some were asked to be on staff, then asked not to come back. Some were asked to come back, but then not paid for their time. There are probably millions of negative stories that I have not even heard. I cannot compete with the anger and hostility some of you feel towards our corps.
There is not much any of us can do to change the past or to help resolve any of those issues. Whatever happened to you, whatever your story is on why you are no longer around, I am sorry. Maybe an apology from me will not help, but I am truly sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t there, and I’m sorry you got burned. But I’m back, and I need you back, too. I brought a 24-pack and some salve. Let’s start the healing process together and get our Glassmen back!
Kim (Waller) Nash
Please note that posts in the “Why I’m Back” series reflect the views of each individual author. If you’re a past Glassmen performer who’s now involved with the corps in anyway (donating, volunteering, joining the alumni corps, etc.), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute your own personal essay. Stay tuned for additional posts by alumni who are donating and volunteering for the Glassmen and the Glassmen Alumni Association.