As a human being, I am often guilty of becoming far too comfortable with my circumstances in life. I become comfortable with the house that I live in, the clothes that I wear, and even necessities such as the food that I eat. Unfortunately, this comfort has the dangerous potential to lead to an apathetic attitude toward circumstances that are outside of my comforts. Sometimes, however, life throws a curve ball that flies rapidly in the face of my comforts and opens up an entirely new perspective of myself and of those around me. For me, this curve ball was a trip that I took that changed my life.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
This past summer, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at a place called the Dream Center at Inner City Church in Oklahoma City, OK. When I agreed to go on the trip, I had no idea that I was not only going to change lives, but that my life would also be changed. Upon my arrival at the Dream Center, I was introduced to an old, run-down gymnasium where I, along with the rest of my group, would be sleeping during the week. Immediately, I was taken aback. The rooms where we were to sleep were dirty and musty, and my group leader soon learned that our air conditioner was not working properly. Since it was a gym, there were no beds. As a result, we made the best out of pallets on the hard floor to sleep on. I was beginning to get a small glimpse of life outside of my comfort zone. The majority of the trip was spent helping the Dream Center put on a sports day camp for the children. I had volunteered at sports camps previously, so I thought I knew what was coming, but I was in for a surprise. The director of the Dream Center did her best to prepare us for the children that would be attending the camp. We knew that most people who lived in the Inner City had very little money and behaved in different ways than we were accustomed to. However, nothing could have prepared me for the reality of their circumstances. The children attending the camp were abused and abandoned. They had no respect for authority, and I realized that on the very first day. As the week went on, I heard the story of a little girl who was being abused by her parents and of another girl who saved her lunch every day to take home to her hungry siblings. When asked what his favorite part of camp was, a little boy answered, “Lunch, because I can eat until I am full!” I was shocked. The more time I spent with them, the more I realized that this trip was not about me. As I began to form relationships with the kids each day, my heart began to break for them. Suddenly, I wanted to hug them and never let them go back to their broken homes. I realized that they would do almost anything just to hold my hand or to sit on my lap or to give me a hug. They needed love and attention because they could not find it anywhere else. My problems became smaller and smaller and I became eager to love those children as much as I could. I came home with a new understanding of all that I selfishly take for granted in my life. My perspective has been forever changed by this trip and those children.
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