Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guest Blogger: Abby----Val gets a "paycheck"

Most of you know that I direct a statewide leadership academy for Rotary International called RYLA.  It brings together 100 high school students for a four day academy of developing their leadership skills in the area of service.  We try to have kids attend who are naturally "wired" for service because they enjoy the experience more (the website is  It is suppose to be up, so if it isn't, check back.  When you are working with volunteers, it is as they say "a work in progress").   This will be my 5th year as director (I too am a volunteer) and we have had some extraordinary kids come through. 

This week has been long with The Boy and yesterday I went on a drive alone to clear my head and evaluate what I have been contributing to the "bigger picture." 

I am feeling like a failure as a parent.

I have no career.  Not one that qualifies me for some Social Security that won't be there when we are old enough to claim it.

I was questioned by some anonymous coward in an anonymous cowardly email this week about my intentions for my church lady presentation  tonight.  There was some mention of me and I quote-- "the Dark Side." 

I am feeling a little beat up.  I mean really, the guy on the Titanic didn't even care whether I was going to Hell or not. 

So in regards to RYLA, I work long and hard throughout the year on it with several other talented folks.  It takes so much attention and time, it is like it is my third child.  And frankly, you just never know.  Is it worth it?  Why do it?  Does it really matter?

Well, this morning, a note from Abby, RYLAian of two years ago says it is.  She has no idea how perfect her timing is.  How perfect her words are.  And how it makes me feel like when I die, my work will have contributed to more than just the betterment of me. 

And I quote: (hear how self aware she is....she is 17)
After everything that happened during the course of camp, I would have to say that the most life changing point was when I realized that I have certain gifts and talents that can help another. I have, not only the ability, but the responsibility to help others who need it. From camp, the most important thing I took away was joy. I am now excited to help other, however big or large the deed is, it is truly gratifying to know that I can have a positive impact on a person's life. I will take that joy with me everywhere I go throughout my life. Thank you for that.

Since RYLA I have noticed that I am more involved in serving others. In my junior year in high school I entered the peer ministry group at my school and became the leader of my group. We are responsible for the Spiritual Life at my school which means we plan masses and provide opportunities to pray during school individually and as a school. I have also been a part of planning the senior retreat and ended up actually being one of the main volunteers, actors, and tech people for the retreat. It was stressful but turned out great!

I have also gave up some days off of school to get up early and go volunteer at Harvesters and deliver coats from a coat drive to a center in the less privileged part of town that was low on coats during the winter.

In January I took the principle of helping others who can't help themselves to Washington D.C. and marched in the annual March for Life, which protests abortion. A 24 hour bus ride up to D.C. and another 24 hours back to Kansas City, with no showers or sleep besides on the bus, I learned that sacrificing certain pleasures for the sake of another cause is crucial and effective.

This year a group from my school is going on a mission trip to Guatemala. Unfortunately i will not be able to attend until next summer, but i will be going on a mission trip to Nashville to help food bank for a week while working with the working poor in the city. It should be a humbling experience.

Overall, RYLA was a wonderful time that taught me how to give of myself without expecting any recognition or praise for a good deed. I learned that not only can putting on a fundraiser for a local family in need, or going across the world on a mission trip, or raising money for the starving will give someone a chance to practice the motto "Service above self" but small things can also be an opportunity to practice that.

One phrase from RYLA that has changed my perspective was when another teenager said "I want to change the world, but changing someone’s world could be even better." I have been trying to live my life by that idea, changing one person's life whenever i can. It has proven to be a wonderful life. Thank you to everybody who helped make this camp an awesome, life changing, and eye opening 4 days.
No, Abby, thank you.  :)