Posted by: ajsssummer | July 17, 2012

Reflections on Service in Birmingham

Here at AJSS, we do a lot of reflecting. Last week during our camping trip, we were all sitting in the darkening woods by the lake, getting bitten to death by mosquitoes and listening to the deafening songs of the frogs (I kid you not, it was impossible to fall asleep they were so loud), and something occurred to me. The truth is, I didn’t come to AJSS because I’m so totally in love with service. Every opportunity before and during this experience thus far, people have been proclaiming their love for service, and I’ve just sort of nodded and gone along with it. Don’t get me wrong, I was attracted to the giving-back aspect of this program, but primarily, I wanted to have a fun summer and meet some new people. I wasn’t actively looking for service. It just sort of happened. But having worked for the last 1.5 weeks on building a house, packaging food for hungry people, and organizing clothing for those who need it, I realize that this is exactly what I want to be doing right now. Sitting in the hot sun (and when I say hot, I mean hot) and building a house might not sound like your ideal teenage summer. Especially when a lot of the stuff we do seems so small, like assembling blinds (with Emily, Matt, and counselor Phil), or making stairs and an inspector-approved railing, and more often than not, we have to redo a lot of our work, because it just isn’t good enough, or doesn’t work, or looks bad. I mean, on Tuesday, the Blinds Team and I (see above) spent at least 20 minutes putting up some blinds, only to have them come crashing down right after we had given ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done. Or what about the time we laid down rows and rows of dirty sod, only to have to take it out and put it in a different place? And all of this in 100+ degrees. But let me tell you something, it is the most fun and rewarding experience I could have asked for. I’m learning so much, and not just about baseboards, drill bits, and nail guns, but about giving, and how even the smallest detail can make a difference.
ClichĂ©, I know, but if me, Em, and Matt didn’t put up the blinds, who would have? Stepping back from all our hard work and having that hey-I-made-that feeling is incredible. We sweat through our clothes after about 2-3 minutes, and my legs are scratched up, but I feel accomplished. I feel like I’m doing something. Seeing Murial (the woman who will be moving into the house we have been working on) putting her little soaps on the bathroom counters and watering the flowers that we put into the ground, and admiring the closet shelving that took me, Rachel, Sean and Emily two days to do is really the best kind of reward for our hard work and sweaty sweat. Plus, she brings us cookies on occasion. And not only is all this work rewarding and meaningful and all that jazz, but it’s actually fun. Even more fun than I could have imagined. In the 10 days that we’ve been here, we’re already so close, and it’s only going to get better from here. So, I realized that despite the fact that service might not have been my #1 reason for signing up for AJSS, it has just made it that much better. I really love everyone here. For all you parents reading this, your kids are awesome. Really. And we’re all having an amazing time.

This has been Rebecca Siegel, blogging for AJSS Birmingham. See ya in
5 weeks, family. :) Going to go paint nails with Em and Sam. They say hi to their families (and SZASZ).


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