Another Palm Springs
This summer a group of us from our local church tried something completely different than your average summer vacation. What do you envision when you think of summer vacation? Possibly going camping with the family, or traveling to a large city and site seeing? Both of these are plausible answers. Cruising down the highway while listening to the Beach Boys, we reached our destination in a whopping one and a half hours. Yakima, Washington, the “Palm Springs of Washington,” the sign read. Outside the temperature was “only” 100+ degrees (I’m not exaggerating). I was beginning to have visions of long, exhausting days. About sixty of us teens and chaperones were on a week-long mission trip. I asked myself, “What did I get into?”
Immediately, we were greeted by a group of teenagers from California that completely blew us away. Without reservation, they embraced us like long time friends. They grabbed our bags like bell hops at an upscale hotel and escorted us to our meek accommodations at the Holy Family Catholic Parish. We had many laughs and became comfortable with each other. But the most ridiculous, funniest, and outlandish person I remember was Dean Seth Leon. Don’t get confused, that is not his first, middle, and last name, that’s just how everyone referred to him. His name was Steven. However, he introduced himself to everyone the exact same way the entire week, “My name is Steven, but you can call me Dean, or Seth, or Leon.” What’s with that?!
The mission included teens from Washington, as well as many other bordering states including California, Oregon, and Nevada. Even though we all came from different places and parishes, we all worked together for one purpose. We set out to improve the town of Yakima and serve those most in need. We did all of this great work through the Young Neighbors in Action organization (www.youngneighbors.org).
Our first task was to paint a single story house of an elderly couple. At first, everything seemed to be fun and games. My brother came with me on this mission trip and we had a blast putting the first coat of paint on one of the walls of the house with unbelievable speed. I found that we worked well together. The challenge came when we were started to work with others, especially the girls. I found out the hard way that girls can be very fussy and desperate to fill in every little crack that the naked eye can barely see. I learned to be more patient and understanding of others as well as learning to respect the working style of different people.
Young Neighbors in Action has multiple work sites throughout the United States and Mexico. I encourage teens to look into their program and learn not only what it’s like to work with someone different from you, but to also meet tons of teens that share your same Christian beliefs. As an extra bonus, the mission was relatively inexpensive and a great way to get out of the house for part of your summer. It challenges teens to step out of their comfort zones and embrace helping those in need. Though it wasn’t an exotic trip to the Caribbean or spending hours on the beach in Hawaii, I did experience a little of “Palm Springs” in Washington. This opportunity was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my entire life.
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