Wednesday, May 14, 2008

...and the next day

I am a mom. Any mom out there will relate to this part of my story. When you are a mom, and then work with kids on top of it all, you tend to see them all as yours. I feel so loyal to these highschool friends of mine that I not only want to protect them, but alternately want to see them get the best out of life...especially on an adventure like this. I wanted EPIC for each and every one of them.

Day 1, while good in it's own way, was a bit of a disappointment. I felt it, and the kids were feeling it too, which didn't help my mood any what so ever. I bit my tongue and hoped the next day would be an improvement. It was not.

Day 2 dawned and we were told that they have this beautification campaign going on in Kentucky and they are encouraging people to clean up the roadsides. Fair enough. Remember that we were in a very poor area, in fact the 3rd poores
t county in the United States. When you have to pay for trash service, and you can barely survive as it is, you tend to not pay and toss your trash out into the roadsides hither and yon.

The problem for me was not only the safety part of it, but the lack of organization. It felt like they didn't quite know what to do with us and so they gave us this task as "busy work". They also handed us a box of latex gloves (and fancy orange vests) as the only protection for picking up all manner of, broken televisions, bags of abandoned trash, and lots of broken glass.

It was a tough sell, I am not going to lie. The work stunk and the kids were doing their best but it wasn't easy for them to stay positive. I was really wrestling with how to approach Head Honcho Rob at the end of the day. I did not want to
seem like a whiny complainer, but yet I felt like my group was missing out. I knew Rob, while Head Honcho and all, was really not the one calling the shots with what each group was assigned to do for the day. In the back of my mind I kept thinking "Well, we came to serve and not complain"....yet it didn't really feel like we were serving.

We made the best of it and by "we" I really mean ME. I tried hard to chuck my own nasty feelings and look for the opportunities. There were many and in the end I was appreciative of the day.

Being able to walk along roads that few people ever do was wonderful. I was able to get into some really deep conversations with my small group that might not have happened otherwise.

One of our topics was how we can poison each other with our words. If I am not enjoying myself and think picking up trash is infuriating to say the least...then I tell everyone about how awful I feel, soon enough others begin to feel the same way. How we talk about each other, or the things we choose to share can really matter. In life we need to be so careful about how we talk to others because our opinions or bad attitudes can go much further than we realize. Words matter and have meaning...choose them carefully.

I watched the kids begin to encourage each other in the most precious ways. In the end we had somehow turned it into a silly competition about getting the most trash. Final tally: 14 tires, 3 televisions, a car bumper, one dog skull (yeah, ick!!), and 21 assorted bags of trash!

Another thing that came up was about our contribution those first two days. No one was ever going to know we were there. No one was necessarily going to appreciate what we were doing and we would not receive any kudos or reward for it. We did quite a bit of work around the camp as well (a summer camp for local kids) and none
of those summer kids would ever appreciate or see us. I did my best to explain that this is like real life in so many ways (can I get a "here! here!" from the moms out there...). Being the kind of person who will work and serve with humility is a great lesson for any of us, but these kids really learned it...pressed in deeply. They "got it" and it makes me want to blubber and cry just thinking about well they "got it".

I will wrap up with leading into day 3. I did finally work up the nerve (aka "momma bear" fight) to talk to Head Honcho Rob. I was on my way but and ran into my good friend and co-leader, Eddie. He was coming back from the same talk I was heading towards and so I didn't feel like I needed to keep going. It had been said.

The next morning we were all in a leader meeting and getting our marching orders for the day. Turns out we were supposed to spend the day at camp AGAIN and do some raking. I took a deep breath and layed it out there...fighting tears if I have to be honest. Sticking up for kids who had worked hard to raise 700.00 each to come on this trip. Kids who were here to meet people and do something that mattered, and that would last beyond them a bit and they weren't getting that experience.

Head Honcho Rob heard every word and even though he could not do anything about what was assigned to us, we did some juggling internally with our groups. Next thing I know I am telling kids to pack their lunches....we are outta here!!


Anonymous said...

Okay - I can't read all of this right now - just quickly scrolled down
but I have to say - YOU AMAZE ME! I'm in awe of your accomplishments
and honored to know you but more than that - I feel blessed that I can
truly say you are my friend!
Love you!