by Gabriela Slomicz and Ashley Barrow
Many people have misconceptions on what it means to be a leader. A leader can be someone who works hard every day to put food on the table for their family or who does small things in great ways. This week as we worked with United Way of Central Maryland, Boys and Girls Clubs and others, we were not here to change the whole world. Rather, I leave knowing that I changed a few people’s lives.
During my first day of Alternative Spring Break (ASB), I saw a little girl eating grits, and I saw part of myself in her. She was a little bit different but she owned it. Grit isn’t just the food we eat — it’s a word that means passion and perseverance. That’s real leadership.
Honestly, I could have gone to Cancun, Florida or the Caribbean just like many other college spring breakers, but I chose to volunteer with Alternative Spring Break and it chose me. There is no more fulfilling feeling than helping kids with their homework and two days later they still remember your name and who you are. I would rather have that feeling than lay on a beach any day!
It’s not just about the physical volunteer work. It’s about how much you want to make an impact. It’s not just moving a box or putting away art supplies, but it’s the smile you give, the time you spend coloring with a little kid, and the hope that is left long after you leave. Who knows, maybe ten years down the road, the children we volunteered with this week will remember what we said and will have a positive impact too.
This week, we were “chilling the kids with kindness.” I tried to let everyone we work with relax and forget about what they might be going through: struggling with basic needs, lack of support or neglect, and just enjoy the present moment. Chilling someone with kindness simply means to take the stress off someone, especially kids. Simply celebrating a moment can go a long way. I enjoyed a basketball game, ate a piece of cake for Dr. Seuss’ birthday and had insightful conversations about college with someone who might be interested in applying.
As I was waking back from the metro station with my ASB volunteer group after we toured the Capitol building, I saw an advertisement that said “It’s amazing what you’ll find when you look beneath the surface.” If I can take anything away from this service week or give any advice for those thinking about participating in ASB, it would be to go deep. I don’t mean to go deep into the ocean; I mean going deep through listening and trying to understand what people are really saying and what they need and to actually care about what you’re doing.
Be dangerous in your work, whatever that might be. That means to do everything with passion and never lose your grit. Remember that by getting involved, you might not change the world, but you will change a life, and that is one of the greatest feelings in the world.