As some of you may know, I have a summer internship at a church in Pennsylvania. I work with the youth group, and this experience has been one of the best of my life.
This week was the week of middle school service projects. For four days from 8am-3pm, middle school students met at the church and departed to various places in the area to do service for those in need. Day one was spent doing weeding and mulching for a school for troubled kids, day two was spent at the church baking cookies and making cards for kids in the hospital and the elderly in nursing homes, day three was delivering those cookies and cards to various locations, and day four was spent doing odd jobs at a crisis pregnancy center.
It truly was a great week, but getting up early and working hard led to exhaustion, and exhaustion– if not kept in check– can easily lead to a bad attitude. Granted, the middle schoolers did slow down after working in the hot sun for 5 hours straight, and there was a bit of negativity going around when they began to make card number 35 and had simply run out of encouraging words, but overall I was extremely impressed by their willingness to work.
Prior to service project week, kids were eager to sign up and get involved. During the week, they were excited for each days’ activities, and asked me several times if they could “do things like this more often”. When they spent the day doing yard work, they would come up with things to talk about to pass the time and keep a good attitude. Above all, there was no shortage of encouragement this week as they constantly built each other up, and served not only their community, but one another.
Perhaps the time when I was most impressed by these pre-teens was when we all visited the nursing home to hand out cards and cookies. When we first walked in the building, my students were looking to me for guidance as talking to the elderly can sometimes be awkward and disconcerting. I would whisper words of encouragement and advice, but was careful not to do any of the work for them. These kids were awesome. They were confident, and kind, and selfless as they listened to 90-year-olds ramble about dinner and the weather.
This whole experience really challenged me to keep my attitude in check, and find joy in serving. After all, if a middle school student can do it, can’t a college student?