Reflection and summary:
Day One: We created a winter-themed Candyland at a local nursing home and we took inventory at the Savannah Jewish Educational Alliance.
Day Two: We gardened at the Midtown Miracle community garden and helped prepare things for Shalom Y’all Food Festival. We also built garden boxes.
Day Three: We weeded garden boxes and harvested herbs at America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia. We also mulched trees with the Savannah Tree Foundation.
Day Four: We shoveled sand into a sandbox for the children at the Savannah Jewish Educational Alliance.
The first part of the Auburn Creed states, “I believe in work, hard work.” The 12 students who signed up for the Fall Alternative Student Break were ready to perform hard work in Savannah, Georgia. We were ready to make a difference in the community. We were bright-eyed college students, waiting to make a noticeable change to this place we would be visiting for 4 days.
But that’s not what reality or Savannah had in store for us. Instead of completing one giant project, we did a lot of little things. For instance, one day we stapled tickets together for an upcoming event hosted by a local synagogue. Another time we shoveled dirt from one place to another (a sandbox). There were times we became disheartened and frustrated. We had come to make a difference, and instead we were doing busy work. We were moving chairs, not lives.
We continued to do the tasks set before us with smiles on our faces. We cleaned closets, took wrapping paper off of doors, and weeded gardens. And by the end, we realized that we were doing what we had come to do – help the people of Savannah. We didn’t need to change the community; we needed to listen to them and serve them in whatever capacity they wanted. That was what our mission was.
When we realized that, it was easier for us to enjoy and learn from our experiences creating a winter Candyland for senior citizens (even though it is still fall), mulching trees, and raking leaves. These were small tasks, but they were tasks that needed to be done. And if we were the ones to do them, then that meant the community partners we were working with could devote their time to do something else, to perform their own service for their community.
We met many interesting characters during our trip, but perhaps the one we’ll remember most is Chef Floyd Jackson, who works for America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia. He told us that even though we would never know it, the work we were doing mattered. The weeds we were pulling and the effort that we were showing made a difference. We made the garden boxes clean, which meant he could plant more vegetables and herbs so that he could make better meals for the children in Savannah. The children will never know we helped and we will never see the fruits of our labor, but by completing our tiny task, we helped him in his larger mission.
We learned that hard work does not always mean big work. We learned that small things can make a noticeable difference. When we were mulching trees on the side of the highway with the Savannah Tree Foundation, people noticed and they honked their car horns out of appreciation. But the most important aspect of our trip that we took away from Savannah is what it means to be an active citizen in a community. Everyone we met cared about the place they lived in and the people with whom they shared that space. Everyone we met was trying to make Savannah a better community.
We came in with grand notions of changing Savannah, but we’re the ones who were left changed. The Creed states, “I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.” and that is what the people in Savannah taught us.
Life is like a box of chocolates and we learned that even though we never knew what we were gonna get, it was still going to be pretty sweet.