Enriching a Culture
Every year I wait for it to roll around. It’s one week I never forget. I look at the calendar in my head and see that week in bold face letters with gold stars next to each day. I get to travel the nation and see things I didn’t know existed. I go beneath the surface and dive into the core of our nation. My mind begins to smooth out. An entire community is laid out before me and the power is in my hands. Having the means to make a visible difference in this world is nothing short of incredible.
Group is an organization that puts on mission trips, Workcamps, all around America. Every summer, thousands of teens and adult leaders join hands to accomplish what otherwise could not have been.
People can’t believe I pay money to attend these Workcamps. I spend countless hours fundraising so I can spend a week repairing someone else’s home. I am part of a group of young adults hustling, knuckling-down, and driving to complete the job we were assigned. Everyone comes back annually to go through the same grueling effort we have already endured. When we aren’t working on our resident’s home we are socializing, making new friends, playing and praying.
We are usually stationed at a local college, high school, or middle school. When we get there, we spend some time with our youth group and are then split into our crews. This crew is composed of six complete strangers: five kids and one adult. These six people are teammates, working to complete a job.
The first night is the introduction night. We meet our crew and then perform a task in order to begin team building. Some kids are shy, but by completing this task, they get to each person’s personality and their characteristics. After that, we pick jobs. In four years, I have yet to be chosen for a job other than Work Director. I’m the one to take charge during our first exercise, take initiative, lead and make a good team captain.
I evaluate every person so I can get to know who they are. I want to see if Rachel has the motivation to let go of her phone and pick up a paint brush. I want to know if John can get his face out the book he hasn’t put down since we met to break a bag of concrete. I want to know if our adult leader is a leader, or merely another worked bee.
I try to learn what I can about them and tell them everything they want to know about me. By the time I’m halfway through the day, I realize we’re becoming a family. Then I stop and I look around. I notice the new faces: the eyes peering through windows, the people walking down the sidewalks and cars driving down the street. Everyone wants to know who we are and what we are doing. In these small communities, everyone knows everyone. And if something is happening out of the status quo, the neighborhood knows within a few hours.
Throughout the week, I meet a hundred more people than I anticipated. These people prove it doesn’t take a college degree, a big house, or a fabulous job to make a good person. To see all of these teens and adults giving up their time to selflessly help their fellow Americans is a spectacular sight.
Each day, neighbors come out to see what we are working on and end up joining in and working alongside us. They jump at the opportunity to help others. They’re so quick to offer up anything they can whether it be tools, food, a helping hand, or even just company. And when I step back at the end of the week and see the job completed, there’s nothing in the world that can match that feeling.
My first year, when we were finally done completely priming and painting a single woman’s house, we showed her what we had done. Her eyes began to well up and she could barely speak. After seeing her newly revamped home, she had to sit down. She looked at all of us with tears in her eyes and said, “Thank you so much. I’ve never been so proud to live where I do, and I feel so blessed to have you all here.” What was funny was, it wasn’t all the walls we rolled, or the trim we slaved over that made the difference. Instead, it was the time we spent talking and bonding that made her so overjoyed.
When we were packing up our things, she called me over. I stood in front of my new Hispanic mother who had taken such good care of me all week. She gave me a huge hug and told me, “This has been the most amazing week I’ve had in a long time and you have been the answer to my prayers.”
By taking my time each year and devoting it to the benefit of someone else’s livelihood, I am able to give to a community an experience that will never be forgotten. The work may have been arduous and the days may have been long and daunting, but to look back on everything that occurred, it’s always worth every last second.