The following was written by AHA Senior Thomas O'Brien '15 as a culminating project to his Campus Ministry team Service Learning course.
Fog rolled over the hills and the light mist sprinkled upon us as we stepped off the bus. We had just arrived in Kittery, Maine, and this was our first glimpse of the community we would be helping this week. When I heard my youth group and I were going to Maine for a mission trip, I thought there was no way we could really do any good. But once I saw the numerous run-down homes all over the town and the troubling situations the various citizens were facing, I truly believed there was some good we could do.
Since I have entered high school, volunteer work has become one of the main aspects of my life. With two week-long mission trips headlining my past two summers and this upcoming summer, as well as service every Saturday at People Serving People, volunteering has clearly begun to impact my life. Prior to attending AHA, I occasionally volunteered at various organizations around the Eagan area. However, since my first day at AHA, I began adjusting to a community centered on volunteering and helping others. I found that I loved this aspect of the AHA community so I furthered my attempts to volunteer by applying for the AHA Campus Ministry Team (CMT). Through CMT, I have been able to expand on the different types of service that I do in and out of school, and I am also able to lead others in volunteering and help give them the chance to receive the types of gratitude I have gotten over the years from volunteering.
When we arrive the first night at camp each year, we break into work crews for the week, being assigned with five to six people we have never met before and who are from different churches across the country. Each person on the work crew is assigned a home and specific projects with a local family. My assignment for the week was a mobile home on the edge of town where a father-in-law and daughter-in-law lived together. He had cerebral palsy and she was his caretaker as his son (her husband) was in jail. Neighbors had signed them up for the project as the home was quite an eyesore. In fact, we learned during the week that the neighbors had called the police more than once because the property was in such disarray. When we arrived, there were empty bottles of alcohol discarded in the tall grass and it looked like it had not been mowed for quite some time. The siding of the home was also discolored and falling off. We knew we had a lot of work to accomplish in one week.
As we worked, we shared stories about ourselves and our faith. Towards the middle of the week, the father-in-law started opening up a bit with us and shared what it was like to suffer from cerebral palsy and also to have a son in jail. This encounter changed my life. It was impossible for me to even grasp the idea of this man opening up about his life. He admitted to us that he knew he was nearing death, and he would most likely never see his son again, but what I took away most is how grateful he was for us to be there helping him. That’s what he continually said over and over. Even with all the difficult things going on in this man’s life, he didn’t complain once. He simply preached his gratitude to us. I will remember this family we helped and my time in Maine for the rest of my life because of this reason alone. I truly gained a new perspective on life from this man. I learned to forever be grateful for what I have in my life, because in a brief instant, at any time, it can all be taken from me.
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35. This bible verse from Acts connects more and more to my life every day. The last few words of this verse especially are very powerful and true for my life specifically. As I previously stated, these recent few years my life has been greatly affected by service. I have learned that I do truly get more out of helping others than by having others help me. It is for this reason that I am going to strive each day to live a life centered around helping others as much as I can, because I believe that this will lead to a truly fulfilling life.