You know that ol’ standby question everyone asks in September–especially teachers…
What’s the BEST THING YA did on summer vacation?
You went to Disneyworld? You went horseback riding in the country? You went to the beach with friends? You went to ___ camp. (Fill in the blank: football, soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, Lacrosse, swimming, summer, and other) Perhaps, you fell in love?
Last night I participated in a celebration where a stage full of Young Adults cheered on 12 of their representatives chosen to report the many ways serving others on one of four mission trips (Norfolk, VA, Washington, DC, Blue Ridge, NC and Nicaragua) powerfully impacted their lives.
They served orphans, the elderly and infirmed, the poor, homeless, and the lonely in various ways with their time, talents, and treasures. I know from asking the question in past years, these mission trips will be the best thing about the summer for most of them. And their summer may have also included falling in love, going to Disney world, the beach, or camp.
Almost every one tells me the week they served others was the best. Why is that?
This is where the answers vary across the board and yet always come down to one thing: Relationships.
HS Junior boy: I met Stanley, a Nicaraguan orphan who was cool, loved to play soccer, and even spoke some English. One Young Adult I know had Stanley’s name engraved on his high school ring—he was so affected by this relationship.
College Student: We dug a trench to connect pipes that would bring fresh water to a small neighborhood in rural Nicaragua. The people were so happy they came out of their homes to help and wanted to feed us even though they didn’t have enough food for themselves. They smiled continuously and seemed so happy. This particular YA went for 6 consecutive years—all four years in High School and two as a college student leader for the high school students. He wrote a paper for a college English class based on his experience, titled “The Secret of the Poor” that highlighted how these poor people living in one-room huts with dirt floors appeared to be happier and more content than most of the people he knows with three bathrooms and five TVs in their homes.
HS Sophomore Girl: In Washington, DC, I was afraid to talk to the homeless people at first, but then they were so appreciative of what we were doing it got easier. One guy asked us a bunch of questions and even encouraged us to stay in school and make good choices. I mean, who’s helping who here?
HS Junior Girl: I met Wanda in a nursing home. She cried, as she told me she was blind had had several toes removed. She seemed so happy to have someone to listen to her.
Post College: One incredible Young Adult I feel privileged to know was so moved by her experiences on these summer trips, she’s joined a missionary team to live and work with the poor people in Nicaragua after graduating from the College of William and Mary.
This blog is devoted to Young Adults, yet it’s obvious Young Adults are happiest when they are devoted to fostering relationships and helping others, young and old. In fact we are all happiest when we get that message on the back of the teeshirt: It’s not about YOU! (meaning ourselves)
If you don’t have something similar on your Best of Summer 2012 list consider the following possibilities or come up with your own:
- Bake cookies for the new family on the block.
- Offer to help an elderly or widowed neighbor with yard work.
- Offer to baby-sit for a couple that could use some time together, but can’t afford to hire you.
- Visit an elderly person you know and ask them about their best summer ever. Just listen.
- Buy some $10 gift cards and pass them out (with a friend or two for safety) to homeless people in your community (get adult support first so you don’t put yourself in danger.)
- Knock on the door to the new kid’s house and invite them to do something with you (go to pool, play tennis, eat ice cream, whatever)
- Offer to sit next the him/her on the bus to make their first day less awkward.
- Help an infirmed person by walking their dog.
You will find that you are blessed by doing this, sometimes in surprising ways.
You still have time—2 weeks for college studentss and a month for most high schoolers–to build Best of 2012 memories!
LMK your Best of 2012 memories! If you want, I’ll attach your name.