It was December 16, 2015. If you were to go on any of my classmates’ social media sites, you wouldn’t find the latest tweet, post, or blog. Everyone was busy studying for the semester finals … that is, everybody except me and a handful of kids from my church.
Every week, my church’s youth get together at an event called Mutual. Some weeks, the boys and girls are in separate groups, but occasionally we are all corralled together, mingling and playing games.
On that particular December night, we had Mutual, the last gathering before Christmas break and the New Year. My mom insisted I go, even though all I wanted to do was study. I walked in with a poor attitude but went home that night more focused, driven, happy, and humble then I can ever remember.
Once we gathered, all the boys and girls set out to go Christmas caroling and hang Christmas lights for the elderly people in our church. Great, I thought. Just the thing an Honors and AP student wants to worry about right before the grade that determines it all.
We arrived at the first house. With my bitter attitude, I sang poorly on purpose. I changed my voice, changed notes, and even changed the words to the songs. By the end of our performance, however, I realized what a scrooge I was being.
At the next house, we sang “Silent Night” while hanging lights.
That powerful song changed my attitude. It warmed my heart and made me realize why we were out freezing our butts off, even though we had important tests and grades looming over our heads.
We were there to help those who had already been through the struggles we had. I still remember, a year later, thinking, When I’m older, I hope kids will come and sacrifice a little bit of time for me, just as I once did for my elders. To this day, I still wish that for my future.
That little burst of community service and Christmas joy made our elderly church members cry, sing along, and feel warm inside. I totally forgot about my long night ahead filled with study guides and flashcards. House after house, all I wanted to do was help.
My peers had the same attitude. I think in the end, we all realized that if we hadn’t done this service, we wouldn’t have done as well on our tests. That night I went home after two hours of brightening the lives of others and got back to studying. Somehow, the task in front of me seemed much less stressful, and my mind felt more open.
I ended up getting better test scores than I could have wished for, and I passed all of my classes with excellent grades. I wish I could say it was because of my hard work hitting the books, but I know God was with me and my church while we worked to help others. I believe He opened my mind and made things easier. Without His help and me getting rid of my bad attitude, it might have not turned out so perfectly.
We went into the service project to help change others’ lives, but in the end, I think it was mine that was changed the most.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.