When I was younger I was part of something very special. It was the mother of all service learning projects. They called it “Service to the suffering”. The Diocese of Trenton, a Roman Catholic thing, ran this event with our CCD groups. When I look back at that time in my life I feel very fortunate to have had such a moving experience.
“Service to the Suffering” was held the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of the Holy Week before Easter. During these three days we would meet together, all of the kids in CCD from the entire diocese. They would split us up into groups. Dividing us from our core CCD groups so that we would meet new people.
Our newly formed groups would all gather on buses where we would then be shipped off to different locations. All of the places would be somewhere that could use a little TLC that could be accomplished by teenagers.
My fondest memories of places:
A community pool. We cleaned out the drained pool, painted picnic benches, and raked the expansive lawn. Now that sounds like hard work right? But what I remember is the massive paint fight that my new best friends and I had. Everyone was covered in red paint!
We went to a psychiatric hospital where some of us cleaned the grounds while others sat inside with the patients and did crafts or played games. I was on the grounds crew. Dealing with other people was never one of my specialties. What I remember most about this day was that a boy in our group that I had a serious crush on made me book marks during his craft time. 🙂 I was a teenage girl.
In my last year I remember being given the honor/burden of getting to carry the cross all day one of the days.
Every day they pick one kid who gets to carry the cross for the whole day. It was their way of giving us just a small taste of what Jesus had to go through and symbolism for everyone bearing their own crosses through life.
This cross was no joke. It was a 6 foot tall thick pieces of wood, honest to god you could nail someone to it cross. We don’t play around at Service.
At the end, on Saturday night there was a big dance. Always a highlight in my book. Of course there was a mass at the end of every day, which was always amazing. When you put hundreds of kids together that really believe and feel it, it can be very powerful.
Even though my faith is nowhere near what it used to be that is a feeling that I will always hold dear.
Having this experience was something so powerful and wonderful. Now that I am a mother of “almost teens”, I find myself longing for this kind of experience for my kids. I wish that I could find something for them that would give them the memories and profound emotions that this event held for me.