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“I am so excited to get to the church!” Elaine, my friend, kept saying on the way to the southern border of Texas.
“Me too!” I declared. I agreed with everything she said. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing and look weird. If I did say the wrong thing, I knew Elaine would laugh at me and tell everyone once we got back to Houston. So to solve that problem I just copied everything my friends did. I didn’t want to look weird, or say or wear the wrong thing. I wanted to fit in with the “popular” group.
As I was thinking about this on the bus I remembered the time Elaine, my other two friends, and I went to the mall.
“I love this store!” One of my friends excitedly told us.
“Me too!” I agreed. I hope they don’t find out I have never been in here before.
We were walking with our arms linked. People were staring at us as we swiftly walked down the hallways full of shop windows. We went into stores I had never been in and knew I wouldn’t like, but they didn’t know that. I bought clothes and accessories they all liked but I didn’t even want to try on. I did all this so that I would fit in with the popular group.
“We’re here!” The youth leader interrupted the movie playing in my head as we pulled onto the rocky driveway of the small town church. The first night we set up all our sleeping bags and had a devotional. We left early in the morning to cross the border and get to work like we would every day. I was excited to be helping the people in Acuna. The town was so small. Children were outside washing and hanging clothes to dry. People were waiting on the side of the road for us to come. Everyone was so thrilled for us to be there to help the town. I feel like a movie star! I thought to myself as they all ran toward us, happy.
I felt bad though because we had been there for over and hour and all I had done was stay with Elaine the whole time and sit around talking. We were in someone’s front yard right by the center of the small town. Elaine was flirting with the boys she just met and I was just sitting aside not doing anything. Uugghh I don’t even know these people, I want to work! More than once people had told us to get to work. Elaine just laughed when they walked away and kept talking. This is not right. I kept thinking to myself. Even though I wanted to work, I didn’t stand up for myself and leave. I wanted to make sure that she thought I was popular instead of some weird girl who likes to work.
“Hey Elaine,” I finally spoke up. “I’m going to go help work on the house over there.” She looked surprised and started to say something, but I walked away before she could. Once I started working, I knew how it felt to help someone with the littlest things and to see how happy it made them, it made me not want to stop.
“Sharon, take a break and come over here again!” Elaine kept trying to get me to talk to her and the boys again, but I kept working on the house.
“That’s okay! I’m going to work more!” It was almost like I was addicted to helping people and showing them the love of God.
The house we were building was for a family who was running out of room in the house they already had. There was a little boy who lived there that everyone loved! He was so nice and funny and loved to dance! Even though the sun was scorching hot, he would hang out by the new brick house and watch us build his new home. It was one of the best houses in the town and he was so happy! I couldn’t believe that he was that happy just from a small house that was as big as my bathroom. It made me happy knowing what I was doing for him.
Every night, after we finished working, we would have devotional in one of the rooms in the church. I loved devotional because everyone was singing and it was easy to connect with God. People had their hands raised with their eyes closed like they were waiting for God to pick them up and set them free. People were kneeling as if they were praying or they broke down from being overwhelmed with the love of God. Wow…this truly is inspiring. I thought to myself as I observed the room. The only person who was not even trying to connect with God was Elaine. She had her phone with her and was trying to talk to me. Does she not even see this amazing atmosphere and vibe in the room? I was getting frustrated with her after she started laughing in the middle of worship. This is no surprise; it has definitely happened before. I thought back to one day in chapel at school. We had chapel every Wednesday at the end of the day. Worship wasn’t that great, but it was still fun! The only problem was that Elaine was doing the same thing she was doing right then. Back then, I didn’t do anything about it, I continued to talk even if I thought we were going to get into trouble, but I wasn’t going to let that happen again.
“ Elaine just stop! Okay?” I quietly yelled to her. I wasn’t afraid of what she would say or how she would react. I wanted to concentrate on God and worship Him, so I did. It was a lot easier ignoring her loud, squeaky voice than I thought it would be, but it was still aggravating. After she realized I wasn’t listening to her, he just looked at me and sat down, putting her cell phone beside her. Finally. I sighed to myself trying to relax.
The bus ride home was just as bad as the last night of devotional. It was early in the morning and we stopped by the area we had worked on to say goodbye to everyone. Again, Elaine was the one to make everything awkward and be dramatic. Most people from my church left happy and feeling more Christian than ever before. Elaine was not one of them. She was bawling as if she were leaving her closest family forever. She only knew the people for a week! I complained as we were getting in the vans to go home. It was only about twenty minutes until I zoned her out and started thinking. I knew that I had spiritually and mentally grown from this trip. I no longer needed someone to follow or imitate. If I had copied everything Elaine did, I would have never done the work that I did without her, which means I would not have gotten the great God experience that I did. That day I promised myself that I would do what I thought was right and be myself so that I can get the best experience out of whatever I do.