Have you ever spent a week in the hot summer wearing long jeans and boots, working tirelessly in an unairconditioned house and unkempt yard, and not getting paid a penny for it? Every summer for a week I participate in a mission trip called the Gainesville Aid Project (GAP). People from all over Georgia come together to encourage and assist the elderly in their yard work and house work. I first started attending GAP when I was 13 years of age. When my mom informed me that I was going to this week long camp to mow lawns and clean houses I was outraged. I was devastated that I was being forced to spend time away from my friends and my social life. So, I packed my bags with anger and headed to Gainesville, Georgia.
I will never forget my second year at GAP. I was in a group with 7 teenagers and 2 older counselors. When I first found out what our assignment was for the week I felt a little nervous, but very excited at the same time. We were expected to build a 450 foot wheelchair ramp for a little boy named Kibby. We arrived at his house at 9:00 am and immediately I fell in love with little Kibby. Kibby was 9 years old and was suffering every minute of the day. Not only could he not walk, talk, or see, but Kibby had a very limited capacity to function at all. When I walked into his house, I instantly knew that Kibby had no idea what was going on. He was lying on his back, rolling around making strange noises. The show Barney was playing on the television. Even though I suspected that Kibby was unaware of what program was on TV, I could see him moving to the beat of the music being sung by Barney and his friends. We met his mom, dad, and younger sister, Harley. We said a prayer and got started right away on the wheelchair ramp.
By the third day, I was devoting very little of my time toward the construction of the wheelchair ramp. I was too busy inside the house falling in love with this little boy that didn’t even know I existed. As I was sitting in the den with Kibby and Harley, watching Barney for probably the millionth time in three days, their mom came in with tears in her eyes. She walked directly over to me, hugged me, and thanked me for everything I was doing. I was confused at the fact that she might be upset with me because I was not dedicating my time to the building of the wheelchair ramp. She saw that I was perplexed and nervous. Kibby’s mom confessed to me something that was unimaginable. That was the first time since Kibby was born that she actually had the opportunity to take a long bath without worrying about Kibby’s safety. She sat down next to me and hugged me for what seemed like an hour.
Finally it was the last day, and the wheelchair ramp was completed. I knew that God had definitely given us a hand in constructing this ramp for such a well-deserved family. We put the final touches on it and ran inside with joy to tell all of them the good news. Kibby’s mom picked him up and placed him in his wheelchair. Harley ran past everyone to see the masterpiece we had just created. I walked outside and turned around to see Kibby being rolled down this huge wheelchair ramp, with his mom right behind him. Tears were streaming down her face. As we made eye contact she mouthed to me two simple words of “thank you”. Right then and there, my eyes filled up with tears and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my week at GAP would not only be one I would never forget, but one that would change my life forever. I thought that my week would be filled with the giving of my time and energy to benefit a needy family. Little did I know that an extraordinary 9 year old little boy would inspire me beyond belief. I truly consider myself to be the actual beneficiary of such an incredible week. You see, I now believe that serving and giving compassionately to others is not at all a sacrifice, but an everlasting reward!
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