My life mantra is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is a few words that are always at the forefront of my mind, and recently, at the forefront of my life. It goes “to know that at least one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.”
I know that this post is a little bit different from my previous posts, but I feel like I need to share with you about my Senior Year spring break. A week and a half ago 18 of my best friends piled into cars and headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a week on the beach. A week and a half ago myself and eleven other University of Missouri students (only one of which I knew before this trip) piled into two cars and drove the 1,020 miles to Raleigh, North Carolina. I’ll spare the details of the drive and our sleeping situations, but I will take the time to convey to you what I learned during this week.
I grew up in a fortunate household in a safe town with an excellent education. I always knew I was going to college, and was able to live a very privileged life. I grew up doing community service and was always encouraged to give back to those in need, so when I applied for my second Alternative Spring Break program, no one was surprised. I knew that I would be headed to an awesome program in Raleigh, but I had no idea how much it would change my life.
Really, I can’t decide if I should say it’s fortunate or unfortunate that I grew up having very little experience with poverty. Fortunate because I was so blessed, but unfortunate because it wasn’t until my senior year that I experienced such an eye-opening issue that lives in so many of our backyards and neighborhoods.
We spent the week giving our time to Loaves and Fishes Ministry Inc. This is an amazing after school program that works with students K-12 who are at risk for failure without intervention. Spending eight hours a day for five days to a program that needed it and not worrying about school work or homework or anything was one of the most rewarding experiences.
I saw into a part of our society that I had never been introduced to before. I spent time with children who, despite being homeless or under educated or without secure family situations, were undeniably smart and passionate about life. Though they may have struggled through their homework or told you a story of their undesirable home life, but at the end of the day, they were just kids. My passion for children and education, especially as it related to poverty, was completely recharged and it was amazing to see the change we were able to make in these children’s lives, even if it was only for a few days.
There is no way that I will ever be able to sum up my experience this week, but it reminded me why I spent so much of my time giving back to the community in high school and the beginning of college. It’s so easy nowadays to get caught up in “what you’re supposed to be doing” and feel like you don’t have time to do things like unplug and dedicate a week to changing someone else’s life. I was born with capable hands, and I will always remember that I need to use them to help those who need it.
I suppose since this is technically my blog about how I feel about the media and such, I should relate it back to that. I spent the week almost completely unplugged. I had my phone for a few hours in the evening, but typically it was laying under my pillow and used only as a camera or an alarm clock. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and being connected, but it was refreshing to focus on the relationships I was building without my phone constantly vibrating. Both giving back and unplugging were a great way to revitalize myself as I head into my last six weeks of college.
If you want to see the video of what I did while I was in Raleigh, check it out below! And I’d love to hear about ways that you stay connected to or give back your communities while you’re in the working world!