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Alternative Winter Break 2018 Service Trip Leader-Hope Smalley

Hope Smalley - October 10, 2017

I joined my first service trip out of pure curiosity. I had heard from many friends who had gone on past service trips that they can be a life-changing experience. They could never tell me why though. They simply said that it was an experience that could only be felt once you attended a service trip. It was that curiosity that encouraged me to apply for a service trip in my sophomore year. In January 2017, I participated in the Alternative Winter Break Service Trip to Scranton and Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. During the service trip, we worked with the Catherine McAuley Center, a women and children’s shelter, Habitat for Humanity, and the Community Intervention Center, a day shelter.

When I first joined the service trip, I thought that I had a relatively firm grasp on what service was. I quickly learned that I was wrong. Before going to Scranton, I thought that I was going to change something. I thought that I was going to help people and that the words “service” and “help” were synonymous. It was not until I experienced Scranton that I learned what it actually meant. Service is not helping someone. Service is not fixing something. Sometimes service is not even about changing anything. Service is about presence. It is about having an open heart for those around you.

For me especially, service is about sharing stories. During the trip, I met so many people who were eager to share their experiences in Scranton. I remember our time with the men and women at the Community Intervention Center. What started out as a few hesitant smiles and some small talk turned into stories about their families and children told over card games and so many rounds of bingo. I remember the children at the Catherine McAuley Center as we all made paper crowns for an Epiphany party. These are the stories that I carried away from Scranton and continue to carry with me.

I am honored to be a co-leader for the Alternative Winter Break 2018 Service Trip which will also be in Scranton. Having the ability to return for a new experience with a new team is truly a gift. In preparing for a new service trip, I have also learned many things. Service does not necessarily change the world. After you leave a service trip, nothing will be completely fixed. There will still be poverty. There will still be pain. But there will still be stories and memories of bingo and making paper crowns. The change that occurred in Scranton had nothing to do with helping, fixing, or changing. Rather, the stories that we shared and the people that we met made the change. I feel that change in myself, and am looking forward for further change in service trips to come.