I love working with middle schoolers, they are at such a funny point in their lives, life is awkward and wonderful, life is what it is at that point. I also love that middle schoolers will always always always tell you exactly how they understand the world around them, they don't sugar coat it. When I first began working with middle schoolers this was a really really hard lesson for me to learn - they don't mean to be mean they rude or abrasive, they are just saying it how they see it.
I was also impressed with how hard these youth were able to work. As projects were put out in front of them - they were determined to get a job done and do it well. This by no means that there weren't moments of complaining - but overall our youth were ridiculously hard workers. They got each and every job done that was set before them. One strange job that we had that fascinated all of us was that at a community garden in Milwaukee gets over 1,000 pounds (yes, 1,000 pounds) of crushed garlic and we got to help haul it and lay it down and incorporate it into the soil. Our hands smelled like garlic for days despite how much we washed them. Another project we had was to haul mulch for the foundations of an orchard that will be placed in the middle of the city. We had two huge mulch piles that we were got to spread around. It was a little nuts to see how much mulch these youth could haul. As we were getting to the bottom of some piles it was funny because the youth thought they had completed the job when another huge semi pulled up with more mulch and the youth rallied and got all the mulch laid.
At a homeless shelter called "the Guest House" we got to make sandwiches for the residents and we got to prepare for a fourth of July party. The youth had an amazing time making cards and decorations for the house. I hadn't taken into consideration how much of a celebration I am accustom to, I gather with family and friends, enjoy a BBQ that is much more than we can eat, and enjoy watching the city fireworks. I can't' imagine not having those opportunities. I am excited that we were able to help these men be able to celebrate and enjoy the day like I will.
All of our serving opportunities were great foundations for being able to have outstanding conversations with the youth. They were asking all sorts of great questions and have a great gifts and talents that they too get to offer to the world. I am thankful for the chance to help foster their growth, I am thankful for the parents who leave me with their most valuable (or one of) things in the world. I know that these youth mean the world to their parents and I am humbled to have the chance to walk alongside them in the midst of these important milestones in their lives. I am thankful for the chance to have these conversations with the youth as they discover the world around them. I am thankful for my call to serve.
I will admit being married does make these types of trips harder. It was hard to be away from Marc for a week, knowing that he was back at the house with my sweet puppy. It was hard to not be able to go for a run with him as we normally would and to be able to share our days as we normally would. At the same time, he was over the top supportive and open to phone calls at crazy times and text messaging from time to time. He was sneaky and left notes in my bag, backpack, and sleeping bag.
I also will admit that these trips are challenging because I don't get to control what I eat and have the opportunity to run, swim, bike, and workout like I would like it. It is hard to not have the chance to go for a long run during the week. Sometimes while I am away I do get in a run maybe two but they are never to the distance I would like and I can't fully relax knowing that I am ultimately responsible for these youth. But it is worth it.
Do you get to travel anywhere fun soon?