College students across the country are on spring break for the next few weeks, and the annual concern over their revelry is mounting. Levels of alcohol consumption are often at toxic levels – girls have the added warning that alcohol may also result in pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Not all students are participating in the national orgy. Some are using the time to travel and provide volunteer service to people in need. Sounds like fun, right?
Well, with good friends, good times, and good food away from the college cafeteria, doing volunteer work can be more fun than a week long hangover after you’ve had your stomach pumped. And it is much more memorable.
My son and his girlfriend, college juniors, are with a group from their school this week rehabilitating houses in a rural part of Kentucky. It is a small group, headed by their director of residence life and the director of campus ministry. As I look down the list of students, I recognize the names of those who have been honored previously like my son, for maintaining averages of 3.5 and higher. There are a few 4.0s in the group – like my son and his girlfriend.
We’ve been sharing some jokes about “geeks gone wild”.
Student volunteer presence is very important in some of these activities. I think back to those students who came on their winter break to Ground Zero to help out. Many volunteers for hurricane relief have been college students, volunteering when they have time off from school.
Spring break is supposed to be a relief from stress, right? Right. But relief does not have to mean emerging from an intoxicated stupor to face life long consequences. Relief can mean a change of scenery, a new experience, a change of perspective.
In high school, my son volunteered for a summer week at a work camp in Appalachia with our church youth group. I don’t think he had ever even held a hammer prior to the experience. After a week of building a roof and getting wet while changing old plumbing I thought he would come back exhausted. He was exhausted and invigorated on his return. The people he met shared a view of the world with him that he had never experienced – and he was forever changed by it.
For him, the most powerful moment that summer came when he visited an out door prayer meeting of the local people. This type of worship is very unfamiliar to him. He already knew that many of these people faced daily challenges in their lives that he found unimaginable. The strength of their faith, their hope, their certainty, and their purpose hit him like a lightning bolt. It was as though he was electrically charged on that mountain to go forward with his life. He was 16 at the time.
So last semester, when his girlfriend the A student perfectionist was complaining of stress related headaches, he said “Honey, pack your bags. Forget the city, forget the beach. We’re heading for the hills!” He hoped that the experience would have the same stimulating, life rejuvenating effect on her. When I last spoke to them, she was really looking forward to it.
I’m glad that he made the choice to pursue the “Appalachia high” again, rather than the national indulgence of getting high by getting wasted. Stay tuned for updates in this blog!