I think when most students start looking forward to Spring Break, they are dreaming of warm weather and relaxation. They are probably either looking forward to an exciting trip south, or a boring trip back home to be fed by mom and sleep in until 2pm. To be honest, both of those possibilities sound wonderful right about now, but I am looking forward to a different kind of Spring Break. Yes, I will still be heading south, but I won’t be packing a bikini. My Spring Break—along with about 50 other Simpson students—will be dedicated to service.
My freshman year, I went to Florida for Spring Break. Ok, I went to visit my grandma, but I still spent the majority of my time laying on the beach and relaxing. It was a great break—I was able to relax, read for fun, and do whatever I wanted. The past two years my Spring Break has looked a little different. My sophomore year I went on a RLC Alternative Spring Break trip to Houston to do Hurricane Katrina roof repair, and last year I went to Toronto to serve the poor in the city. I didn’t necessarily come back from these trips relaxed or caught up on my reading– this type of Spring Break doesn’t exactly serve that purpose. Instead I came back having learned about myself, about poverty, and about the way the world works. I came back bonded to a group of people in a new, deep way. I came back with a passion for service, for travel, and for people. These trips may not have brought me relaxation, but they did give me a new perspective on life, a renewed energy for service, and life experiences that I could not have gained in any other way.
Looking back, I signed up for Alternative Spring Break trips mostly because my friends encouraged me to. The allure of a cheap trip to a new place also encouraged me to fill out the application. Yes, I think service is a worthwhile and important part of life, but spending Spring Break doing service when I could be relaxing was a bit of a difficult decision to make. I definitely don’t regret my decisions to spend Spring Break serving, learning, and bonding. Alternative Spring Break trips gave me a chance to leave behind the world of self-centered consumerism that so many of us operate out of and spend a week sharing my time and space with people who think and live differently than I do.
I can now say that I have spent a week in Houston, sleeping on a cot in a church, showering in FEMA showers, dancing on rooftops under the Texas sun learning how to shingle with nine other young women. I can tell people the story of Levita, a handicapped woman who was living in a tiny house with huge holes in the walls and a leaky roof, less than a mile from HUGE, million dollar mansions.
I can now say that I have made the van trip to Toronto, Canada, where I was able to learn about different cultures and experience how poverty is dealt with outside of the United States. I can say that I have played soccer with refugee children in a Toronto park and served in a Canadian soup kitchen.
On each Alternative Spring Break trip I have gone on I have returned with a renewed passion for service, a new group of friends, and stories of new experiences to share. I have been able to continue this passion in my daily life, through the service groups that RLC offers and through my position in the chapel planning the Alternative Spring Break trips that will go out next week. (I am SO EXCITED to head to Arizona to learn and serve on a Navajo Reservation) If you have never experienced the awesome experience of a RLC Alternative Spring Break trip, I encourage you to apply next year. And for those of you who are heading out in white rental vans a week from Saturday morning—make the best of your experience and come back with stories to share!
Chapel Intern of Service and Mission