I never thought that I would be excited to wake up at 6AM. I never thought I would enjoy bagging oyster shells. I never thought that after one week I would have 29 people in my life that I could genuinely call friends. I never thought I would have the privilege of meeting so many inspirational people in Biloxi, Mississippi- but I thought wrong. I'm not exactly sure what my expectations were going into ASB, but I am certain that I was underestimating the power of this experience. My eyes were opened and I learned more about myself, my trip mates, and the people of Mississippi than I ever thought possible. It would take days to recount every positive experience I had on ASB, so here are two of the most impactful moments for me:
On our fourth day at Camp Wilkes a group of ASBers were playing outside after a day of volunteering. It sounds childish even saying it- playing outside- but that's all we were doing. I stopped for a moment to just look around. I saw one game of soccer, another game of frisbee and a game of volleyball and was overcome with a sense of happiness. I was happy for two reasons. First, seeing everyone together playing like we were in elementary school, was amazing. We were a group of college students who were practically strangers less than a week ago and were now playing games, laughing, and being nothing but ourselves. It was unbelievable to see how the common bond of service could bring such a diverse group together and make us mix so seamlessly. The second reason I was happy was simply because I had taken that moment to look at what was around me. It was not until that moment that I realized how much I miss on a daily basis because I am in such a hurry. I cannot remember the last time I stopped for even 10 seconds to really look at what was around me. It sounds so simple, but that moment of stopping and observing my surroundings helped me see the "big picture" that the trip leaders always talk about. I have let myself fall into my own world far too often since coming to college, and I frequently forget that my problems are minuscule compared to what is going on in the rest of the world. And not only that, but while those big problems cannot be fixed overnight, if a group of 30 fairly inexperienced college students can help, imagine what is possible if the rest of the world pitched in every now and then. If everyone took just one minute to forget about their problems, look around, and realize how lucky they are, we could really make a difference. I laugh now thinking that watching a pick-up soccer game could make me realize all of this, but I guess the best "a-ha moments" catch you by surprise.
My second inspirational moment came while leaving Deer Island on Friday after a relatively unsuccessful morning of work. We were sent there to help with shore restoration and setting up barriers to prevent further beach erosion but the water ended up being too rough to get much accomplished. On the boat ride back to shore I was feeling pretty discouraged because it was hard to see an area that needed a lot of help but having to stop because of factors out of our control. While I was feeling disheartened and we were all joking about being stuck on that island longer than expected, it hit me that this is what Marty and the other people who work on this project have to deal with every day. I cannot imagine his frustration when he only has volunteers for the month of March and the weather takes away those extra precious hours of manpower. These people have devoted their lives to such a wonderful cause, and to have so little control over when they can work must be unbelievably difficult. However, realizing these circumstances only made me admire Marty and his team more. They are so passionate about the work that they are doing that not even the unpredictable nature of the job caused them to waiver. I hope to one day find something that I am equally as passionate about.
Like I said, it would take days and days to explain every influential moment of this trip. Lucky doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about this experience, so all I can say is thank you. Thank you to the trip leaders for allowing me to be a part of this amazing experience. Thank you to the chaperones for teaching me so much. Thank you to the people of Mississippi for opening my eyes to a new culture and essentially a new world. And finally, thank you to the other participants of ASB. I have said to multiple people that I expected to help people and feel good about the work we were doing but I never expected to have so much fun, and I owe that all to our amazing group. You all made this trip one of the best experiences of my life and I will now always think of you as family. I love everyone involved with ASB. Thank you for a beautiful week in Biloxi and for helping me make memories that I will keep with me forever.
Class of 2015