From the view of a 20-something dream chaser.

A Week to Give

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I will search no more, for I found myself in New Orleans a couple weeks ago during my spring break. What was I doing down there? Well, I was giving and the funny thing is I found myself by losing myself in the service of others. Gandhi coined that phrase: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." And that I did, because for quite some time, I have been pondering what on earth the dream job is for a girl of many interests like me. But in keeping with my own motto for life (which I borrowed from the late, great Whitney), "Each day I live I want to be a day to give the best of me," my dream job is simply: a day to give. Or days, rather.

I decided to venture to the Crescent City for various reasons, but the biggest being that I wanted the final spring break of my undergraduate degree to be about something and someone other than me. So often, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and forget to slow down and enjoy it while we can. We're all guilty of it and we all can do something about it, so I did. I spent a day hanging sheet rock, another visiting the elderly, another assembling bunk beds at a homeless shelter, two more removing debris from a store badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and a week with some of the most amazing people you'll ever meet, all with the same mindset: a week of selflessness. I can't even begin to tell you how exhausted we were at the end of each day, but that exhaustion brought us happiness and peace of mind knowing we made a difference.

Although we were able to make a difference and change people's lives, our own lives did not go unchanged. Immersion in a culture quite unlike our own, complete with gumbo, jambalaya and po-boys, not to mention street musicians and even a night of Rock 'n' Bowl all really granted us perspective, which we all too often need. And I had more fun than I'd had in a long time, yet I'm usually having too much fun. That should tell you something. Grateful was our word for the week, and we all took turns writing down what we were grateful for each night in our shared journal: newly formed friendships, our physical ability to help others and the impact we could all feel, among other things. Without this time of reflection, I don't think we would have been changed as much as we have.

They say you should give until it hurts and then you give some more. Well, I'm living proof that it's frightening, yet incredible how true that is. And that is why (in a perfect world with a rich husband or an uncle who leaves me in his will or by stroke of luck, I win the lottery) I would spend my days giving back to those who so desperately need the beacon of hope I am sure I can provide. However, in this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful beautiful life, I have been granted such an opportunity that is arguably better. That is the opportunity to compete for the title of Miss Virginia and travel the state promoting my personal platform Communication 101: Creating a Lasting Impression and the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, the platform of the Miss America Organization. It is a job that would require great sacrifice, drive, independence and a great deal of travel, but it's certainly one that would be worth it.

I think my alternative spring break in New Orleans is the best preparation I could ever get for such a role. In fact, it's the best preparation for leading a life free (or mostly free, who am I kidding?) of material desires and full of all that matters so much more. For all this, I am eternally grateful for my week to give.

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