by Hannah Luke
There are times in our lives when we become overwhelmed with everything going on outside of us—schoolwork, social expectations, familial pressures, plans for the future—that our vision is clouded. For me, this happens more than I would like it to. There is just so much going on that it is difficult to see straight. But then, every once in a while, the sky clears, and we can see again. I find that my sky is the most beautiful whenever I’m on an Appa trip.
As a BC student, it’s easy to assume that we have something to teach the communities we serve. After all, aren’t we the ones who have prepared all year for this trip? While this may be true, the real truth that I’ve found in my experiences with Appa is quite the opposite.
Each time I go on a trip with Appalachia Volunteers, I learn. I learn about myself, about others, about service; about what it means to be human. I am constantly amazed by just how much others have to teach me, and by the untapped wisdom that lies in other people. And in most cases, these things that I learn, these truths about life, come from the most unexpected sources.
I spent this past spring break in Mechanicsville, VA, with my co-lead and 12 other BC students (the most genuine, compassionate, and hilarious group of people; I’ve never laughed so hard or felt so loved). It was my first trip as a leader, and I expected to be the one doing the guiding, doing the inspiring. This just wasn’t the case. We met so many people on this trip: the elderly couple who invited us into the warmth of their home after we cleared their driveway of snow; the incredibly kind, hardworking, and deserving owners of the home we were building with Habitat for Humanity; the endlessly patient group of construction supervisors on the work site; the youth group of the church where we stayed. These people all had one thing in common: a desire, whether it was conscious or unconscious, to be there for their fellow human beings.
With each experience in Appalachia, I become more convinced that we're here to be there for one another. Every person I came into contact with on this trip, the people in the community as well as the wonderful people in my group, taught me this truth simply by being their authentic selves.
Sure, the sky gets cloudy sometimes. With the stress and negativity that our lives bring us, it can be difficult to see the inherent goodness in people. I feel this way often. But when I do, I remind myself of the moments when the sky is clear. I think of my experiences with Appalachia Volunteers, and the people I’ve met, the BC students I’ve seen as their best selves, and I remember. We are all human, and the most beautiful thing about being human is the way we’re made to be there for others.