Sargent Pepper; Therapist

He sat proudly on the horse, grinning from ear to ear.

“Michael. Would you like to go a little bit faster?”

“Yah.” He said, in a tone that implied that he obviously wanted to go faster.

“To ask Sarg to trot, you have to say trot. How about we trot when we get to Grandma to surprise her!?”

“Yeah!” He grinned. “Gram! Gram—“

“Shhhhh,” I laughed, “It has to be a surprise.”

“Gram! Gram!”

“Michael, shhh. Don’t you want to surprise her?”

“Gram! I love this horsie!”

“Are you ready?” I whispered urgently.

“TROT!” he yelled, the sound exploding from him the way a canon explodes, after being held back for so long. And Sarg did. Careening around the arena, Michael started to laugh. He thought it was absolutely hilarious. He couldn’t stop. His face turned red with laughter and tears of mirth streamed down his face. His grandmother laughed with him. He yelled and whooped and laughed and laughed and laughed. We wanted that moment to last forever.

Service learning is taking action to help other people, without payment or bribes, that you learn something from. Service learning takes many forms, everything from helping an elderly neighbor, to organizing help for hurricane victims. The only sticking point is that you have to learn something from it—something that will impact your life.

I have had many service learning experiences in the last year. However, one stands out in my mind. For the past few months, on a weekly basis, I have been helping with Therapeutic Riding lessons for a little boy named Michael. His progress is unbelievable, and clearly outlines the inexplicable bond between horse and man. Not only does his experience give him something that he enjoys to look forward to, it also helps him to express himself verbally in an attempt to overcome his disability.


I have no doubt that Michael benefits from horseback riding; have never doubted it. The part of the experience that has most surprised me is how much I could learn and benefit from Michael. He is a perfect example of someone who lives with a significant disability that handicaps them every step of the way. Despite the odds, he perseveres through life. Whenever I think some obstacle in life too great to overcome, I think of the daily struggles Michael and his grandmother must overcome in an attempt to lead a normal life. He shows me that there is always a chance, that even when others tell you there is no hope, you have to keep trying. I can reflect this in my own life, remembering to persist against the odds, to remember that dreams can come true.


Michael represents a happy, humorous, and loving side of life—a life that he has learned to enjoy and to make the most of. Despite his obstacles in life, Michael is happy. This is a powerful lesson for all of us on the days when life’s joys don’t seem worth the troubles we go to. This will help me, throughout life, to be happy, no matter what obstacles are tossed my way.


My experience with service learning has taught me many lessons. The most important lesson is that I can learn from helping others. I am able to see that helping others does not just benefit them, it helps me learn valuable life lessons that will impact my life. This will increase my likeliness of becoming increasingly involved in my school, community, and world. Really, my service learning experience has taught me that in order to get through life’s ups and downs, we have to lean on each other. Many find this a difficult concept to grasp. We constantly look for the way that our actions will benefit us. Michael didn’t find it so hard to understand. It is really quite simple. After I commented on Sarg’s cooperation, and helping Michael learn to ride, he said, quite simply, “He loves me.”





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