Ways to Serve This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I confidently stepped onto the bus that would takeus to the heartland of country music, and for the next 10 hours, gazed out thewindow lost in thoughts of canoes on fast rivers and mastering the high ropescourse. Little did I realize that the life-changing experience that lay aheadwould have nothing to do with battling white water.

For my church's firstYouth Service and Challenge Trip, our group headed to Tennessee. As part of ourexperience we planned to devote two days to volunteer work, but the first fewdays of camp were spent enjoying rock climbing, hiking, and group-oriented games.Then one morning our counselor announced we would be spending the afternoonvolunteering at the Nashville Rescue Mission. Our assignment: working in the soupkitchen - I helped serve over 500 people lunch and dinner. My duties alsoincluded cleaning up the kitchen and eating area.

The experience ofworking in a homeless shelter was new for me, but proved rewarding. It quicklybecame obvious what a difference this made in the community. Many of the peoplewere very grateful for their meals, and it was evident on their faces. Greetingthose who had come to pick up a meal with a smile and a few kind words became apleasure; I knew I was helping feed someone who would have otherwise gone hungry.

To be quite honest, I would never have really consideredvolunteering in this type of an environment. I volunteer at an animal shelter,and though that is important too, there were many things I would have neverexperienced if I not been at the Rescue Mission - the smiles, the gratitude of somany, and realizing how much we really do take for granted - our families,houses, and even a simple dinner.

While serving at the shelter, I came tounderstand that while volunteering, we should explore other ways to serve ourcommunity, and not just stick to what is familiar. We volunteer for the veryreason of making an impact and a difference on others' lives - not for the credithours securing our graduation requirement or doing so passively without reallycaring. It means a whole lot more.

To put it simply, I learned thatvolunteering is not necessarily doing what you want to do - inevitably, the truevolunteer must make sacrifices. If I hadn't done this, I wouldn't have had thewonderful experiences in the soup kitchen - and not have gone away so fulfilledand inspired. I hope my words have given you an idea of how gratifying it is tosupply someone with the knowledge that a person truly cares. After all, throughtruly helping others, you truly help yourself. I hope you will consider reachingout and volunteering - for me, the Rescue Mission was a great place tostart.

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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