Well, I am home again.
Back from our summer work trip to Colcord, WV.
27 high school students.
5 other adults.
2 porches built.
1 deck and walkway built.
1 floor replaced.
2 roofs painted with Kool Seal.
A week later.
Rested enough that I can begin to think and to write and to get on with the rest of my summer “To Do” list.
I was anxious before I left. The political climate in our country has widened the gap between the part of New York where I live and West Virginia where we lived and worked for the week.
So, how was it?
Here are several reflections:
- The family with holes in their floor and the woman who lived in a camper didn’t ask about our political positions. They were worried about their children falling through the floor and worried about their small porch which was rotting away. Concern and gratitude were the order of the day not politics.
- We were there to help. To do what we could. Repair a floor. Build a porch. Make sure the roof didn’t leak. Help make is safer for an older couple to walk from their house to their driveway where their car was parked. And, more than just build something, we were there to care. I paid attention to that.
- Their faith is genuine and important in their lives.
My faith is genuine (I hope!) and important in my life.
Yet, we express what we believe in different ways.
We could spend our time arguing about who is right and who is wrong or we could replace a floor or build a porch. We chose the latter.
- I was struck by how often someone said something to me about how thoughtful and gracious our high school students were. Small things matter.
But, all was not easy.
There were moments to pay attention to and lessons to be learned.
- One evening 33 of us descended on a tiny grocery store to buy ice cream, but of course we also bought chips and cookies and candy and soda like we had been starving the group all week. Later that evening we talked about the contrast between our ability to purchase whatever we wanted without really thinking about it and the store owner and his family who live in the trailer next to their store.
- And, then there was the adult (one of the ones who complimented me on how thoughtful our youth were) who pulled out a fake million dollar bill with a caricature of President Obama on it and laughingly showed it to the college leader on our trip who was African-American without any hint of what he was doing and the impact he was making. We also talked about that during our reflections that evening.
We will go back.
We are already making plans for next summer.
Relationships grow slowly over time.
And, with relationships, understanding.