Thursday, March 26, 2009
I find it cliche to come back from an experience and say that it changed my life. I feel like my life changes every day with each new experience, and I have come to be more comfortable with this throughout college. My time in the Dominican Republic did more than change my life; it changed my perspective.
Going to the DR was a long time in the making; my group and I had been preparing for almost a full year, so when we arrived, I felt a true sense of relief. I can equate this relief with what all of you college seniors are feeling right now as you firm up your plans for the next four years of your life; it's something that you had to trust would happen, but there may have been times that it seemed out of reach. This is the way I felt about this trip...each meeting would come and go and I would occasionally question my ability to serve others in the DR, I would question the ability of my group to come together for a great week and I would question my intentions. However, when we arrived in the beautiful DR, all of that erased; it was as if we were all starting over.
The service we were doing was fulfilling; building a house surrounded by the members of the community, the recipients of the house and the children who will become the future of el Rifle was more amazing than I expected. However, it wasn't only the actual project that we worked on; we worked on forming relationships with the people of el Rifle, we worked on our perceptions of poverty and service and most incredibly, we lost ourselves, only to find ourselves again in a much bigger, fuller way.
Jason and Erin, the two SMC staff members who accompanied us on our trip, Tom, the community member who came with us, Sarah, our student leader, myself, Bill, Eric, Jess and Siobhan all came together for amazing reflections after our days of service and sorted out all of our feelings. These reflections were an integral part of the trip, and we were all able to sort out the day's events, our own emotions and try to make sense of the whole situation. There is no way that I could convey everything that we uncovered during these reflections, but I can tell you that each and every member of my group gained something incredible from our week together. Being with this group just feels right to me - I actually just got back from our second reunion since we've been back!
My perspective on life changed during this trip. When I left I was worn down by life; doing schoolwork, traveling to my internship, searching for a job and trying to sort out everything that will be changing in the next six weeks was really taking an inward toll on me. However, this experience allowed me to put myself in another existence; an existence of people who admit that they are "poor but happy." I learned that it is not what job I get or where I live or what grades I end up with or if I get recognized at the end of the year for the life that I've led for the past four years that matters, but instead whose life I can touch and how much I allow my own life to be touched that really matters. As Erin said in one of our reflections, "all you can do is love other people." That was a lesson that I needed to learn, and I'm proud to say that my perspective has changed as a result of this trip.