The World Outside of Yours

February 10, 2012
By Haley K BRONZE, Phoenix, Arizona
Haley K BRONZE, Phoenix, Arizona
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I stood inside the large room and watched the other inhabitants of it, who looked my age, as they took a seat on the floor, many sitting cross-legged. The woman in charge went down the list, telling us to pair up with the person whose number for the day matched our number that we already had as a part of our count-off. This introduced me to Sarah, my partner for the day. I learned that she lived only 5 minutes from where we then were, and that many of the kids choose to voluntarily participate in community service to freshen up the town they most likely would still continue to live in as time progresses.

The Cahersiveen, Ireland branch of the Kerry Diocesan Youth Service was full of Irish teenagers my age who were kind beyond belief. The people next to me and all around me were really no different from myself, which wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but it was almost like culture shock. I was thrust into an opportunity to give back to a community with kids that actually lived there. While I was quiet and slightly nervous, but not quite like a deer in headlights (thankfully), we set out to walk to our service site for the day.

We walked through the town and over a one-lane bridge, making sure to stay close to the edge just in case a car came by. Nobody wanted to get hit, after all! My partner Sarah was incredibly sweet, and we had not troubles in getting along. We reached our destination, and I was slightly shocked to find out that we were going to be in working in a graveyard. First of all, I had never been in a graveyard before nor had I even seen one that close up. This was my personal hurdle to overcome; I, as a Cancer, am very kept to myself and withdrawn into my shell and ultimately, I don’t often do much to go outside of it. This challenge threw me out of my comfort zone. Luckily, we were ushered in as our partner pair, and simply instructed to pick weeds from the grave to overall give them a friendly feeling and a cleaner look.

We started on our task right away, winding our way through the labyrinth of gravestones. How it feels to see these lost memories is inexplicable. Several grave I saw were dotted with phrases, such as “loving mother.” It’s actually heart-wrenching to really realize that wow, this person was truly grieved for and meant more than words could ever say to those who knew them. It had me momentarily wondering if I’ve lived a life where I could be secure in knowing that I have made an impact like that on someone’s life. I can’t try to accomplish that in one sweep; it’s a process and more so something that happens subconsciously. It’s in the little things. The smiles traded with a stranger, the endless love poured into everyone and anyone who needs a pick-me-up.

To this day, I remember that note of inspiration, to mean something to someone and be a spark of light in what could be someone’s very dark life. Sarah and I, aided by another but older woman helping us out, took on a larger grave. I noticed throughout there were what essentially looked like orbs, with a live plant or flower in them. Distressed with age, I absolutely fell in love with them. If anything, their obviously rough time at the mercy of Mother Nature merely made them more beautiful and charming. They had this effect to them that just pulled you to them and engaged you immediately into wanting to know that person’s whole life story. When we were picking weeds out of that larger grave, I noticed a small, miniature house that was likely meant to stand as a decorative piece in someone’s home. Now, it has its own home on a stone perch inside the small fencing surrounding the plot of land designated for this beloved family member.

Some time through carefully plucking weeds and maintaining the grave’s landscaping of sorts, the older woman with Sarah and I uncovered what looked like a thick stick, though it was tinted green. We all glanced at each other for a moment, which was then followed up by a unanimous, “Is that...?” as if we were too afraid to acknowledge the notion of what she discovered being what we simultaneously assumed. She nodded and slowly placed the bone back where she had found it. Needless to say, we made sure our work was done and quickly moved on to a new grave. It was harmless, in retrospect, but we were more than a little creeped out at what we uncovered.

After a while, we headed back to the “base-camp,” so to speak. We all convened there at last, and we separated from our partners. But the fun didn’t stop there! We took a bus to a playing field where we were taught Gaelic Football and Hurling, sports that are extremely common to the Irish and a beloved part of their culture. I wasn’t very good (no, really, not at all!), but it was so much fun to just learn and try because it was interesting and enjoyable, despite any talent I may have had in regards to it.

Later, I went to dinner with the kids I was traveling around Europe with. We ate, and then after we headed to the downstairs of the restaurant and attended a dance. There, we were taught two dances that are native to the Irish. The band was a group of folky female Irish singers who were also our age. Each one was extremely talented, AND a few of them were the ones who had taught us their dance, so they were multitalented. I admired these girls; I hardly manage one task and can’t stick with it for very long, but these girls were doing several things at once in a masterful way that I could never match up to. I gained such respect for them from the get-go, and they were incredibly sweet, too! Some of our friends from the volunteering experience resurfaced, and as a result, we got to know them better.

I ended the day in my hotel room, exhausted beyond belief, but exuding happiness from every pore on my body. The entire day opened my eyes to see that there is more to what you find laid out in front of you. Each person, and every item, you encounter has its own story, if you just stop to listen. Most of all, I was encouraged into learning that though I am an entire sea apart from these friendly people I connected with, we are not very different. We both care about our homes and each other, and much of our daily lives are similar, with slight adjustments here and there. It’s easy to adopt the view that anyone beyond your own four walls is vastly different than yourself, but it’s just not true. Step outside of your world and your way of life for a minute. Observe, smile, and just be, because there is nothing more rewarding.

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