Spring Break is a coveted time for college students. After all of the tests, readings, shifts at work, trying to balance classes, homework, sleep and friends, the week comes and everyone is ready. It is easy to imagine how nice it would be to have the week off, to spend it on the beach, or traveling to some exotic land, or maybe even just a week in bed. I understand that idea, I get it.
But, my past two spring breaks have been without a doubt, two of the best weeks of my life. Rewarding, tiring, but so eye-opening. I can’t imagine doing anything else. What am I talking about? Alternative Spring Break. The only kind of spring break that I can ever imagine having for the rest of my life. A week of giving back, volunteering, and maybe, just maybe making a difference, even if it is in some small way.
Each year a few days before spring break, I wish I could have a few more days off, I sometimes wish I didn’t sign up to go on the trip. I know it is going to be long days full of work, and late nights up with the group. I know the flights are early, and the beds aren’t the same as my own. But, then I suck it up and I go. And each year when I get home, I don’t regret one thing about the trip. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without it. There is something so rewarding, so indescribable, so truly magical about the week. The only thing that I can say about it is: There is one point in the trip when you are sitting with everyone, or maybe you are at the work site, or maybe its at night before you fall asleep -it’s different for everyone- but there is one moment, when you just realize how there is something so special about this and you just know that you are going through the best time of your life, and you know that you will never forget it for as long as you live. You know that not that many people get to feel this way at any point in their lives and it’s so important to appreciate it, to appreciate every single moment that passes by and be thankful for it when it is over.
Many don’t want to spend their week volunteering, many would rather be on a beach or at a bar. I can’t say I blame them. But, I always try to put myself in the shoes of the people whose house we are building (for alternative spring break people volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, LGBTQ or an environmental group,) and I try to imagine how happy and peaceful they will be when they get to move into a home that they finally get to call their own. It’s worth every minute.
There is no right answer for anyone when it comes to volunteering, some people will never find it in their hearts to do so, and some people will only volunteer a day. I love to help people, to make them happy. That is when I feel my happiest, and my most me. That’s all I want to do in life, to make people smile, make them feel joy.
Alternative Spring Break may be a week of volunteering, but it’s also a week of self discovery, a week of learning about a new state, and seeing a new part of the world. It’s an adventure, it’s an experience, and it is a week of meeting people who probably would otherwise never have the chance to meet. I love to see how people change through the week, how they grow, including myself.
Each year when I get home, I am sad. People are not going to understand what I did, why I did it, or why I keep laughing about something that happened on the plane, or in the church or on the job site. I am so thankful for it. The week is so magical, that is the only word I can think of to describe it.