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Country roads take me home to the place I belong…

August 22, 2010
  • Title Inspiring Song: “Take Me Home, Country Roads”-John Denver

Good afternoon SQ readers! This week’s post is going to be a bit of a continuation of last week’s post as I have been asked to share a bit about my experience for the past two summers going on service trips with Habitat for Humanity. Let me just start by saying that I have loved my experience for the past two summers and that I would encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to go on a service trip to take it.

The basic premise of the trip is that for a week, my fellow students and I travel down to the Appalachian region to live simply in community with one another and to dedicate time to service with Habitat for Humanity. Our trip is majorly funded by the collective fundraising of our group which is put toward building supplies and to fund our stay down there. Last year, I went down to Phelps, KY and this year to Almost Heaven, WV. The Appalachian region has its own history and culture which stands apart from many other places. There’s an inexplicable freshness to be able to breathe fresh mountain air, to see greenery surrounding you and to not be so preoccupied with what time it is that you actually get to enjoy what’s around you.

To further explain living simply and in community… We have rules on the trip that ban cell phone use, internet or television. I remember the first time I tried to explain that to friends, family, employers, collegues…some of their eyes popped out of their head as if to say “Well how in the world do you plan to do that?”. That to me is evidence of how technologically dependent we have all become. It is not the end of the world to be constantly texting, surfing the internet and to be up to date on what every one of your facebook friends is up to for one week. Additionally, we are not spending every night eating takeout or fancy food. We go to the local grocery store or Walmart to buy our meals for the week on a limited budget. Cereal for breakfast, PB&J for lunch and for dinner we take turns cooking simple meals and cleaning.

Our work week generally consists of full days 9-4 working on whatever task our foremen ask us to do. We never know quite what we are getting up to until we get down there. Last year, a few members of my group and I worked on leveling a yard which included lots of digging, pickaxing and messing around in the dirt. It may not have been the most exciting job in the entire world, but we found a way to make the most out of it becoming a tight-knit group: “The Dirt Crew”. This year, I got the chance to do a little bit of everything which involved insulating, working on fixing a roof and completely destroying a substandard trailer. Just in the work itself you learn a lot of technical skills involving construction or deconstruction.On the work site often you also get the chance to work alongside the people of the community and the family for whom you are building the house. That experience is another invaluable experience within itself as you get a chance to bond with them and learn what things they live and deal with in their lives.

The rest of the time that we are not working, the time is ours. We spend it bonding with each other or out in the town we are staying in learning about their history and culture. We’ve done things like hike through national parks , head to a local county fair, enjoy some bluegrass music and go blueberry picking. As you can imagine a group that comes down as strangers through the time they share leaves a group of friends with a unique shared experience and bond.

Coming back is always a different experience because it’s like you head right back to reality. You are still processing your experience and observing the impact it’s had on you. You come back a changed person with feelings and stories about your experience that are not the easiest to explain to people who were not there. Everytime you go you learn something new and meaningful whether it is about service, about yourself or about others…it’s always a different experience. However, if I had to sum up into just a  few lessons(which was hard to do by the way) demonstrating the scope of what I have learned over the past two trips, I think my list of philosophical life lessons would look something like this….

1. On service: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation  is tied up with mine, then let us work together.”-Lill Watson

Serving, volunteering and giving to others is not about lending a hand to pick up someone who is down on their luck and in desperate need of you to come and rescue them. It is about you choosing to work with other people to better a situation and to work towards a common goal. There’s no room for holier-than-thou attitudes. It’s an equal, mutualistic relationship you have with the people you are working for.

2. On living simply: “The simplest things are often the truest.”-Richard Bach

In this day and age with technology advancing the way it has, some things have become “easier” while we’ve completely forgotten about other things. When is the last time you went a couple of hours without checking your phone, your email, your facebook, your twitter? When’s the last time you laid down on the grass to check out the night sky? When is the last time you played a board game with someone and enjoyed their company without anything else? Or maybe the last time you enjoyed a meal without being in such a hurry? For some of you, I bet the last time you’ve done some of those things you can’t even remember. There in lies the problem. We have complicated our lives to such an extent that we forget about enjoying the most simple pleasures like nature, good people or even good food. Simplify your life every once in a while.

3. On Other People: We are often so quick to judge other people without even thinking twice labeling them and putting them into categories before we even speak to them. We pride ourselves on being open-minded and accepting individuals, but we are so quick to make snap judgment. Don’t assume you ever really know someone until you sit down and take the time to talk with them. Chances are they will surprise you with how different they are from what you might have thought about them

4. On Personal GrowthYour biggest obstacle to growth and moving forward most times is you. You can only experience what you choose to let yourself experience. Sometimes that means getting out of your comfort zone and doing things you never would have otherwise imagined yourself doing. But that’s how we learn & grow. Open up and let yourself experience life in the moment. It will change you as a person and often for the better.

Whew…well that’s more than I bargained on writing this week for sure. But it needed to be said. Service has always been and will continue to be a big part of my life. I am already looking forward to next summer’s trip. As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts.

The incredible view in Almost Heaven, WV

See you next Sunday,

❤ SQ

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. unclerave permalink
    August 23, 2010 1:09 pm

    We desperately need MORE people like you! If you run into Jimmy, tell him I says: Hey!

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