Christmas in April This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Scraping paint, planting flowers ... you want me to do what?

When I volunteered to help with a community service project in my town called Christmas in April, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Sponsored by the American Red Cross, volunteers gather to help improve one family’s home. Basically, our assignment was to strip the house and repaint it inside and out, put down new flooring, remodel everything inside and, of course, do some landscaping. I have always been willing to help others, but for 10 hours on a Saturday?

I groaned when the alarm sounded at 6:30 on my only day to sleep in during the school year. I wondered if I could show up late, or maybe call in sick. I sighed and rolled out of bed; I was out too late the night before and there seemed no way I would be able to do construction work for ten hours!

When I arrived, I was surprised to see how many people were there. The house belonged to a nice elderly lady who was very thankful for our help. She was willing to do anything to assist us, but I spent most of the morning whining.

I was out back tilling the garden and getting ready to plant flowers when I heard a sweet voice ask, “Honey, could I get you some water?” I was surprised when a tear came to my eye. I told her I was fine and returned to work. When she walked away, I looked around, thinking how wonderful every person there was. I couldn’t even begin to figure out why I had had so many negative thoughts about helping. I realized how blessed I am to have everything I do: a new car, a wonderful house, and most important, my family and friends who would do anything for me. Mrs. Johnson, the homeowner, saw my tears and grabbed my hand.

“Honey, are you okay?” she asked. “Why are you upset? You are doing a great thing, helping me. I know there are better things a 17-year-old could be doing on a Saturday.”

That was certainly true, I told her. I could have been sleeping after staying out late. I even told her the only reason I had come in the first place was for the free food and to hang out with my friends.

“I showed up thinking of ways to get out of working and then when I saw all the generous people devoting their Saturday to helping you, I couldn’t help but want to be like them. I never knew so many people could come together to complete a big project in such a small amount of time,” I explained. “Mrs. Johnson, we were told of the dream house you long for and we are trying our best to give you exactly that. I hope when the day is over that you love everything we did. And now, Mrs. Johnson, I have a garden of roses to plant, my contribution to making your house just as you imagined.”

The rest of the day passed and I didn’t regret a single minute. Sure, the food was good, and I did have a great time with my friends, but I learned a valuable lesson - people can always want something they can’t have, but they can also give something they don’t need! Watching all these generous volunteers from age 10 to 80, I learned that every one of them was

capable of helping. I hope that not only can I teach myself but my kids and grandkids, too, that receiving isn’t everything but helping someone out is always a great thing!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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