Traveling 1000 Miles to Fail

Madison - Powell, Tennessee
Entered on November 24, 2013
Age Group: Under 18

In June of 2012, I started a journey that would change my life. I headed out on a plane to Denver, Colorado to join a program titled 16 Days. This is a 16 day road trip designed to challenge high school students physically, emotionally, and spiritually. While on this trip 6 other students and I traveled by bus through 7 different states doing ministry of all kinds. At one destination we were grouped together and given money and an assignment. Our goal was to find a place to eat and while we went out to see, stop, and spend time with the people around us. The reason for this assignment was to teach us how important spending time with people is and ultimately to share our faith and show them in some way how precious they are to God. I had to learn this lesson of selflessly giving of my time the hard way, through failure.

Sunday June 17th, 2012, was an overcast and breezy day in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jill, Joseph and I went out together. We had one hour to complete our task, which seemed like a reasonable amount of time. But as we walked the assignment got harder. We walked aimlessly on the empty streets, being led by the taste of hunger in our mouths. We focused on finding a food source, a restaurant or maybe a food cart. At that point we would have taken the questionable food from a rundown gas station if it meant that we got to eat, because we were running out of time. After trying to get into every closed business on the street, we stopped to look at a map and maybe get an idea of where we were. At that same map was a middle aged woman, well put together, alone, and trying to find her way as well. As I stood next to her, I remembered the words of our group leaders, “with every person that you meet, act in such a way that they know how much they matter.” With this ringing in my head I felt my nerves start to well up inside of me. I felt inadequate; at that moment I stopped doing anything productive, such as figuring out where we were, and got lost in thought. “What do I say?” “What does that even mean?” “I can barely say a sentence without messing up my words,” I thought. I was thrust back into reality by a nudge to the arm from Jill. I then looked around and saw that while I was busy freaking out, she had gotten what she needed and left. All the while, I had forgotten to even speak to her. After 55 minutes of walking around like three lost puppies we gave up and went back to our meeting spot, defeated.

While waiting for the rest of our team, we sat on the hard concrete steps of the local library and talked about what had happened, what we did wrong, and what the actual assignment was. After talking to our group leaders and each other, I realized that personally I didn’t succeed because I was focused on myself and let fear take over. I was so distracted by hunger that I didn’t notice the lady at first. Once I did notice her, I made a big deal out of something as simple as talking to her, and I let fear of who knows what stop me. After hearing the stories of our other team members, how they were able to feed a homeless man and make a connection with a girl struggling to support herself, I was amazed by my friends courage to go farther than expected to reach the people that no one else was willing to reach. They stopped, saw the man and woman, and spent time with them, in order to both tell and show them how special that they are in the sight of God, and in one case to meet a physical need as well. Hearing their stories of courage helped all three of us to see what can happen when being driven by compassion instead of selfish desires.

Today I continue to learn from the experience of failing to love the people around me because of selfishness. This lesson has impacted my life in drastic ways and has helped me to strengthen existing relationships as well as make new ones. From practicing this lesson I have been able to gain patience and perspective where it was lacking before. When I am working at Chick-Fil-A and an argument comes about, I have been able to stay level headed and respectful when it would be easier to join in and fight back. This has helped me in my Christian life as well. When school and work get to be too much and I feel overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done, I remember from this lesson how important it is to keep building relationships and to sacrifice my time and effort to show the people in my life how much they matter. I learned a lot of things from the 16 Days program, but this lesson has always been my favorite, and of all things it came out of failure.