Searching for the threshold of greatness
After finishing my first day at my internship with the Chamber of Commerce, I felt like breaking my austere savings-regime and splurging on a celebratory purchase: I wanted cookies. Already downtown, I made a quick trip to the dollar store to restock my pantry with food that agrees with my “Moving across the country in a month” budget. While I was happy to think that I could afford the more expensive brand of canned tuna as I made my way to the cash register, I found myself thirty-four cents over my twenty-dollar budget. As I prepared to bid an item goodbye, the employee stopped me by saying: “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ve got you.” Flashing a quick smile and sending me off to have a nice day, this kind woman transformed what I used to think of as pocket change into a symbol of deeper meaning. That night I ate my favorite lemon sandwich cookies, which were about to get the axe mere hours ago, realizing that yet another lesson learned in the North Country made them taste a little sweeter: no gesture of kindness or greatness can be deemed too small.
Finding my place at the Chamber has empowered me to become who I need to be in order to provide visitors and residents that same “I’ve got you” experience. Although my position is only summer-long, its personal impact is already tangible. By so readily accepting me into their organization, the Chamber has made me feel capable and valuable in the workforce. In such a hands-on environment, what matters most is not my experience, but my urgent desire to be of service. I have learned about economic development strategies particular to our region and worked in policy reform efforts to analyze cost-effective ways to increase tax revenues alongside the County Administrator and the County Attorney, which has boosted my confidence in a way that I really needed as a recent graduate.
Being able to hear the concerns of small business owners about the colleges’ role in economic development has further well-rounded my St. Lawrence experience, complementing my interest in public policy and urging me to pop the ‘SLU bubble’ in hopes of creating symbiotic relationships with the town. Undertaking the county’s “Buy Local” campaign as one of my main projects has translated into my life in a deeply personal way. It is an honor to conduct the baseline research that will set the foundations for a campaign that promises to have long-lasting effects. As the county seat, Canton currently has excellent potential to drive the development of the rest of the county. I am proud to say that I not only went to school in the St. Lawrence County, but lived there.
At the Chamber, feeling like an addition, rather than like additional help, has been key to my understanding of the community. Their warm welcome has inspired me to be the best Xio I can be in order to facilitate positive economic exchanges. Whether it be shown by the amount of enthusiasm put into the Dairy Princess Celebration or just by telling a student “I’ve got you” in an unexpected way, this county’s character thrives on small gestures that make it big beyond its dimensions.