As a public relations student juggling classes, an internship and on-campus commitments, I’m guilty of becoming self-absorbed in my efforts to stay motivated. With little to no free time, I sometimes feel as though I am unable to focus on anything or anyone but myself, my responsibilities and my goals. However, last week, I embarked on a mission trip that changed my perspective.
I attend Waynesburg University, a service-oriented university where students are required to volunteer at least 35 hours to graduate. Greene County Immersion is a program designed to connect students with local nonprofits. Throughout the week, I worked alongside a group of 11 students on various community service initiatives. During my trip, I walked dogs at the Humane Society of Greene County, assisted residents at a local nursing home, took a group of mentally challenged adults bowling and led recreation at an after-school program for underprivileged children.
Through all these experiences, I realized the needs of those around me. The dogs at the Humane Society, deprived of attention and love, burst out of their cages, yanking us toward an open field designated for walking. Their extreme eagerness to receive a small gesture was evidence of their need for affection.
The elderly woman who we intended to assist in cleaning her apartment, unaccustomed to company, began telling us tales of her life, passing along words of wisdom to the group of students she didn’t anticipate encountering that day. Our visit with her, though a lovely interaction, displayed the loneliness that she and other residents of the nursing home experience on a daily basis.
In taking a group of mentally challenged adults bowling, their excitement at the opportunity to go on a fun outing was apparent. As I watched their eyes light up when they took turns rolling the bowling ball towards the pins, I realized how much the trip meant to them.
And while volunteering at the after-school program, the kids clung to us, seeking the affection they seldom receive from their caregivers due to poverty and other difficult circumstances.
As the week has come to a close, a quote by Marvin Ashton has reverberated in my mind, “If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance and care.”
Despite the difficulty of juggling many responsibilities this semester, I am thankful for the opportunities that I have been afforded and thankful that my eyes were opened during the week I spent serving others. I can now see beyond my own struggles to notice the needs of those around me. I am now not only aware of the needs of those around me, I am also conscious of the ability that I have (and that we all have) to meet the needs of those less fortunate and make a difference in the world.
Samantha Peer is an intern at WordWrite Communications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @sam_peer.