Many Hands Make Joyous Work

 

by , Director of Religious Exploration

It’s 5pm on Thursday evening, adult chaperones have arranged rides to the car rental place to pick up our 12-seater vans.  We then travel back to the church to make lunches for the 16 person crew who will attend our work service trip to Deep Roots in Earleville, Maryland.  Earlier in the day, Lee Hill, on her work break, shopped for the food.  Now it’s 5pm and Lee Hill, Bart Hill and I arrive at the church kitchen to make up the lunches for the next day’s road trip.

It’s 6:45 am on Friday morning, the chaperones, Bart Hill, Lee Hill, Paul Vigneau and Bruce Leshay and I are at the church, loading the food and supplies into the vans.  Lee has the permission slip clipboard and the bag to collect any medications needed from the kids.  We pack the portable altar, we pack the first aid kit, we pack the footballs and Frisbees and board games.

7:15 am the teens arrive, some are sleepy , but most are excited and full of smiles and hands full of pillows and sleeping bags, and backpacks .  Many have forgotten their permission slips, so we have extra. We know, we understand.  There are many, many details for all to remember!

The parents are here, some looking quite happy, some watching nostalgically as their child hands their gear to Bart, the “tetris master”, to be loaded precisely into the back of the van.   When we are all packed in, and everyone has made their last minute trips to the facilities, we gather in a circle on the front lawn at UUCW.  We link elbows.  We stand in silence for a moment.

Rev. Aaron is there, the chaperones and teens are there, some parents will choose to hang out and be part of the circle.   I say something like:” We are here to bring our hands and hearts into the world.”  Aaron says that this group will bring what we represent as a church community out into the world.  I say something like: “For every person you come in contact with, be your best selves. Pay attention to who they are.  They are unique and worthy people, just like you.”  Aaron says, learn and have fun.  Then we pile into the 2 vans.

The teens have concocted “V1 and V2” hand signs and lingo.  One teen has printed out “V2” stickers to wear or put on the back of their cell phone.   I find out , a little late in the game (as is the way when dealing with teens as a 55 year old person), that they are not just holding up peace signs but Van 1 and Van 2 signs.  That took some major planning from this group.  They generated a new symbol and language:  all without adult supervision or suggestion, go figure.

The V2 logo sticker

The V2 logo sticker

The teens also decided that we needed to make a pilgrimage to Krispy Kreme donuts in Delaware.  Adults can make kids’ dreams come true.

Krispy Kreme or Bust

Krispy Kreme or Bust

Teens can make adults’ hopes and dreams come true.  These trips take a lot of planning and work and (sometimes worry) on the part of the adults.  We hope we get a group that come together and work well together.  We hope that everyone remembers their sleeping bag and extra socks; we hope that everyone upholds our group covenant and takes it seriously.  We dream that everyone has a good experience.  And year after year, our Youth Group teens make our dreams come true.

Before dinner at Chesapeake City, MD

Before dinner at Chesapeake City, MD

We arrive by 6:30 pm at Deep Roots, full from our dinner out in Chesapeake City, stocked with snacks and Krispy Kreme donuts .We  unload the vans and set up camp inside our volunteer dorms.

When we exit the van, a group of families who live in this shelter run up to hug me and others they recognize from last year.   I believe we are their favorite group.  We play with the children and listen to the adults if they want to talk.  Bart took family portraits of many of the families last year, he framed them and we sent them.  They do not forget the kindness.

In the evenings during our trip, we have the check-in circle.  We light a chalice, we speak opening words, we each take a magic crystal stone, and we go around sharing our joy of the day and our challenge.  We place our joys and challenges and intentions into our stones and collect them together into a basket.  At the end of the check-in, holding the basket full of stones in my hands. “I hold up all of your joys, your challenges, and intentions.  We are here to support them as a community together, like the stones in this basket, we are here together.  Amen and Let it Be So.”

Our Check-in Circle

Our Check-in Circle

I notice that most of the people sharing in the evening find joy in hard work, yet also recognize that hard work may also challenge them.  One thing I know and witness during every trip that we take, is that when everyone works hard together, (many hands) the work becomes joyous.  It’s funny that way.  From doing a mountain of dishes, moving and spreading a truckload of mulch, to repairing and painting a mile of fencing, to organizing a library of a thousand books, to weeding a huge overgrown community garden plot, to painting a large space quickly so it can be used the next day for educational programming, many hands make joyous work, The joy comes from seeing a job completed, the satisfaction of a plan achieved.

The joy for me as a religious educator is the experience and growth opportunities for the youth and adults that are involved in these trips.  I love watching the young leaders emerge.  I love watching the different gifts that each of our people bring with them – lighting up like beautiful stars, they always do.  I love watching the younger, tentative teen from last year turn into a strong leader this year.  I love watching our people playing basketball with the families who live at this shelter.  High-fiving each other and creating a playtime for parents as well as children.

Deep Roots Basketball Game

Deep Roots Basketball Game

For all the hands that it takes to pull off a trip like this, the result for me is pure joy.  I think I can speak for the other chaperones: it’s a feeling you have to experience in the trenches of the event to know how powerful it can be. We all can be fearful of the unknown: of the long drive, of managing all these young teens, for the wrangling of people for the work assignment, the pressure of completing the assignment, and the fear of not getting enough sleep.  We all can fear the unknown – and all have.   But, as we sit in the final check-in circle of the final evening, with the kindness and connection amplified ten times from where we began, you know that this is important work in so many ways with so many layers.

All of us can take a lesson from our small venture.  Many hands make joyous work.  We can pull together to tackle some of the ugly, dirty, or strenuous business of making this world a better, safer, and more accessible place for all.  It seems daunting, it is scary and worrisome on many levels, but can be tackled together with love and community- with the dream of a joyous outcome.

Lifting the birthday boy, Joshua

Lifting the birthday boy, Joshua

Thank you: Bart Hill, Lee Hill, Bruce Leshay, Paul Vigneau Rhane, Lois, KC, Conrad, Skylar, Alanna, Joshua, Gareth, Tom, Ziehal, Charlie

Thank you: Bart Hill, Lee Hill, Bruce Leshay, Paul Vigneau Rhane, Lois, KC, Conrad, Skylar, Alanna, Joshua, Gareth, Tom, Ziehal, Charlie

With Love and Peace,

Robin