6:30 AM wake-up calls. 9 hour work days. 100+ degree temperatures. One of
the most rewarding experiences of my life. Let me explain. Earlier this year, in June
more specifically, I traveled to rural Kentucky with some friends and other members of
my church to build and repair houses for the less fortunate. Looking back, I learned and
experienced more than I could have ever imagined.
Some people I knew from school and some from our parish had volunteered for
this work in the past. I had never been interested. I am still not sure what caused me to
sign up that weekend in March. Boredom? Curiosity? I vaguely recall a nagging, in the
back of my mind, to do something worthwhile. Maybe starting to consider the world
beyond my friends and ESPN is part of "growing up".
Almost immediately, I began to have second thoughts. This was summer
vacation and Appalachia was not going to be a week at the beach. I was already going
back to the millwork shop. Long hours of manual labor, but at least I would be paid.
Rural Kentucky was no pay, no air-conditioning, no McDonald's and, I was thinking, no fun.
The night before I was to leave my dad and I were collecting some hand tools
from the workbench. He knew I had lost my initial enthusiasm. "Keep an open mind,"
he said, "maybe it will work out better than you think." Fair enough, I decided, if I was
going to do this, I was going to go into it with a better attitude and ready to help. It
wasn't long before his advice paid off.
As we approached the house we were to stay at in the mountains, our van got a
flat tire. We were the last van in the caravan, our driver knew nothing of the area and we
had no means of contacting anyone. About 10 minutes later, though, two men came by in
a truck, stopped, and were more than willing to help. Although their accents were thick,
their intentions were good, and we were able to communicate that we needed a tow truck.
The men also said they knew the woman whose house we were to stay at and would go to
her home to tell the other members of our group what had happened. Eventually, some of
our group came to get us and a tow truck came for the van. We thanked the men, but
they insisted that it was nothing. We went our separate ways, but my feelings about
the trip began to change a little, now that strangers were helping me.
When the week began, our group was divided...