It's funny, even bizarre, but Monday, as I was forced to return to the demands of my daily school routine, nothing about the day felt "routine" or normal at all. My morning began at 6:45 AM when I shot out of bed, energized and ready to go (very abnormal for me to say the least). Without thinking, I quickly threw on some clothes and was eagerly looking forward to some breakfast… then reality finally hit. I wasn't in a cabin surrounded by 10 other guys, as I had been all of the past week, but rather, I was in my normal room, joined only by my angry roommate who definitely wasn't appreciative of being woken up so early in the morning, My initial reaction to this realization was a mixture of sadness and disappointment…disappointment stemming from the acknowledgement that one of the most impactful weeks of my life had officially come to an end.
However, as I reflected on the life-altering trip to Jonesville further, the sadness quickly disappeared and gave way to a surprising sense of peace and inspiration. Looking back, I am overwhelmed by how seamlessly our group banded together, and how we formed friendships and connections, which I believe will endure for quite some time. I also look at the sheer amount of work we collectively accomplished, and I am unable to attribute this tremendous progress to anything other than our special group dynamic. I believe the human capacity for kindness and compassion is truly remarkable, and this group's unique bond really centered upon our unified aim to wholeheartedly serve the families we encountered. I think we all acknowledged the magnitude and importance of our work, and it brought us together in a powerful way.
As I ate lunch, walked to class, etc, I kept mentally comparing our service trip to one of my favorite books, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In this futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, every day and every simple action is a struggle or a matter of life and death. While this image is a bit extreme, by comparison, I believe our homeowners similarly lead a life wrought with difficulties and hardship. For this reason, the opportunity to serve and directly affect their lives in a positive way has undoubtedly touched me beyond what my humble words can effectively convey. I have never interacted with people who, materially speaking, have so little, but who carry themselves as if they own everything worth having in life. Initially, I arrived on this trip fully expecting to do some manual labor and assist a deserving family; however, I never anticipated learning so much from the very people I myself was supposed to be helping. Now, as I have the gift of hindsight, I can't help but feel, that in may respects, our homeowners were the ones actually serving us, not the other way around. I will never forget my experience, or the numerous life-changing lessons I learned along the way.
Although I am certainly bummed that this trip has concluded, I am excited by the journey that lies ahead. After seeing how profoundly this service opportunity inspired and influenced every member of the team, I believe our ongoing passion and commitment to serve others will enable us, as Cormac McCarthy writes, to continue, "carrying the fire." My sincerest hope is that this trip to Jonesville, VA marks the first of many subsequent stops along a life-long road of service to others.