An Awkward Van Ride

January 17, 2011
By Dan Schmidt SILVER, Hartland, Wisconsin
Dan Schmidt SILVER, Hartland, Wisconsin
7 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I step into the van, trembling and wondering. I don’t know these kids. They don’t know me. How are we going to play together? There’s no “team” here. We’re complete strangers. Fifteen faces stare blankly back at me. The coach points to a seat in the back and says, “Get in and sit down.”
The harsh voice forces me to the back. I squeeze into a cramped seat between two mammoths. There’s that awkward silence when no one says a word to each other. Should I say something? Maybe strike up a conversation and kill the tension? I don’t. No one does. Instead, we put our buds in our ears and climb into our shells.
This is a typical ride for my fall baseball travel team. Long. Awkward. Unfriendly. But eventually those things go away and the rides get better. Less uncomfortable. Enjoyable. We reach out and socialize. Make friends. We learn from each other. Why? I spend every weekend with them. I give up my social life. I don’t sleep in the comfort of my own home on the weekends for an entire fall. This causes me—and the rest of the team—to get out of our shell.
These rides teach me lessons. They teach me I can’t write my book of life by myself. I need to steal a few pages from others. Everyone can teach someone something. If I rely solely on myself, I’ll be boring. I need to let others enrich my life while I do the same for them.
For this to happen, I need more than just van rides and more than my normal life. I need something that will make this happen: volunteering. I volunteer at the hospital. Doing this, I meet new people and share my thoughts, ideas, and experiences with them. And they do the same with me. By donating my time to helping and teaching, I’m impacting other peoples’ lives. And they’re impacting mine by showing me a part (or many parts) of their lives. These parts teach me new aspects and views I apply to my own life.
Now, I reach out to others. Now, I get to know them. Now, I share things with them about myself. I no longer stick to just my group of friends. I yearn to meet new, different people. I absorb their thoughts and experiences. I let myself, as well as others, shape my life. I let myself shape their lives. This change has led me to realize everyone has a duty. That duty is to reach out and help others, and take time out to make a difference.
I don’t want to make my life an awkward van ride. I don’t want to spend my life wrapped in a shell. Now, I say something. Now, I strike up a conversation. Now, I kill the tension. I take the buds out of my ears and listen. The awkward silence is taken away.

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