This I Believe

Dana - La Grange, Illinois
Entered on January 8, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

Zackley Work Trip 2007

I believe that the acts of community service, are used to not only improve others lives, but also the lives of those who participate in it.

Last year, in the spring of 2007, I went on what my youth group calls a work trip, but in all reality, I can’t think of a less accurate word to describe the occurrences of that week.

We went down to a place called Edisto Island, which is a beautiful and somewhat poverty stricken location off of the coast of South Carolina. During that entire week, the thirty of us were assigned to different projects—six to be exact—all around the island. There were various roofing and painting jobs, as well as something what we all referred to as “the burn site”. This particular job was no ordinary one. This job had its own story, which made us keep the people who had once lived there in the back of our mind while we cleaned up.

A woman, whose name escapes my memory at the moment, had lived there for many years, with her mother. Then, one night, about two weeks before we had arrived, a fire that began on the stove lit the kitchen on fire, and later spread to the entire area of the house. Fortunately, the owner was able to make it out alive. However, her mother whom with she had lived with for many years, was not so fortunate. Although this job was supposed to be demolition mission, we as a team decided to turn it into a salvage effort, in order to help restore what little hope this woman had left in her life.

The thing that I remember most from the cleanup that day was the moment when I stumbled upon a cute little ornament, in a box of Christmas decorations. It was a wagon, and of course, it was red. It had various colored Christmas presents inside, and a little handle, which was melted into one of the presents. It reminded me of the stupid ornaments that my mom puts on our Christmas tree; the ornaments that we (her children) made her. I felt silly placing the ornament into the salvage pile, because it was clearly ruined, but for some reason, it seemed important to me. That day truly made me realize that although this woman and myself were so utterly different, we shared a common bond, which was made through the act of community.

The thing is, this experience has shaped my life into what it is today, and I am a better person because of it. Although I know that I have helped people in ways I can’t explain, I never look back on that week and think, “Wow, I really impacted some people’s lives”. I look back and I think, “Wow, those people really changed my life”.