The summer season at a high school tends to be slow. There are no students or teachers around. It’s a lot slower-paced and the hours are shorter. When students turn in their service hour forms before the close of the school year, Campus Ministry becomes a madhouse with papers flying everywhere. A part of the service hours form I created asks students to compose a summary of what their experience was like, and not very often am I able to read through all 800+ reflections then and there.
Today as I was trying to find a reflection to send over to a colleague, I believe the Holy Spirit allowed me to stumble on this particular one. I was really touched by this reflection of one of my students who wrote on the service he completed up in Camden, NJ. He graduated this past June and was only here for one school year as a part of a study abroad program. His home is in Vietnam. Any time he has stopped by my office he was on the quiet side so it was wonderful reading what the had to say in his reflection. Not very often do my students write in this much depth, either and so I felt compelled to share it as it has inspired me and served as a necessary reminder especially with frequent news of tragedy happening throughout the world.
During all three days at Camden and even after having returned home, I thought about the concept of privilege. I, and I believe most of my peers, have heard about the “never take anything for granted” idiom so many times that I was sure that I understood it, even though I had never actually taken a step back and reflect on its meaning. Merely acknowledging the fact that you are living without having to worry about food, clothing and safety certainly is not equal to understanding the phrase: *appreciating* such fact, is. When my host was driving me home from D.C. after the Camden Retreat concluded, it was as though I was sent to a different world. That was my impression. All the vehicles, the perfectly-maintained roads, the Giant grocery stores, … suddenly became significant even though three days ago I did not give a modicum of thought about them. I remember complaining about things like the food is yucky, the traffic terrible, and my neighborhood boring while there are people who don’t know if they will even have food to feed themselves the next day, who are too poor to afford a vehicle and live under constant fear of violence. What breaks my heart the most, however, is that despite all of those misfortunes, there seems to be no way to break themselves from the cycle. In other words, their poverty carries on to the next generation, then the next generation.
This Camden Retreat gave me a fresh perspective in life. I can now say with confidence that I have taken the phrase to heart by embracing even more dearly all the good things that were given to me, regardless of how little: my host family who’s supporting me as if I’m a family member, this opportunity of studying abroad, even the Big Mac I ate this afternoon, … knowing how truly lucky I am, I feel even more motivated to not let all those good things come to waste by excelling in my studies next year and helping out the community more. This is my way of continuing to live out my mission as a disciple of Christ.
Perspective is everything.