Domestic Service: Small Actions Bring Joy

    March 25, 2019
    By: Cali Wingate ’21

    During Spring Break 2019, I had the pleasure of traveling to Saint Michael’s Association for Special Education (SMASE) located on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona as a part of the Domestic Outreach Service Trip program. During my time in Arizona, my heart was warmed and filled with love from those I served, my peers and my relationship with God.

    Each day we engaged and interacted with the adults at SMASE, which meant talking to them, playing games or even just being present. As soon as my peers and I walked into the school, we were instantly greeted with large smiles and friendly “hellos."

    I found it so easy to interact with all the adults at SMASE. I loved talking and laughing with Sharon, Styles, and Eddie, but I savored the moments I sat in silence with Carisou and Tilly. Each person had their own story and background, and I was so grateful to be a part of their lives for a short period of time. I could not help but smile when the adults would introduce us to the staff as their new “friends.”

    In our reflections each evening, my group members and I would share stories of the day, highs, lows, challenges and God moments. Often times, the God moments we each shared were little moments that we experienced with an adult one-on-one, a fellow group member, or even taking in the beauty of Arizona and the Navajo reservation. By the end of the week, we came to realize that our simple actions spoke volumes to the adults, their families and the staff at SMASE.

    Throughout the entire week, the “service” we completed did not feel like service. I felt as though, similar to the adults at SMASE, that I was spending time with friends. At the end of the week, one of the adults, Zane, each gave us popcorn that his family made for us and wrote a note thanking us for spending time with their son, and how they noticed a change and difference in his behavior at home. Reading this note brought me to tears. It was so reassuring and humbling that our time was so meaningful and special to the adults at SMASE.

    I came into this experience not knowing what to expect. I had completed service in the past, and I was very excited to continue my love for service, deepen my faith and gain new relationships. I left Arizona with 11 new friends, a full heart, and changed person in my spirituality as well as in my humanity. I gained so much respect for the staff at SMASE, seeing how difficult their jobs could be at times.

    Seeing the limited resources available at SMASE and on the Navajo reservation made me so thankful for the blessings I have received in my life, and my level of education. As an occupational therapy major, I was challenged to use my knowledge to adapt to a different culture and compensate for the lack of resources. SMASE was certainly not Leahy Hall, but it was wonderful in its own ways.

    I was very sad to leave Saint Michael’s because I would deeply miss the people at SMASE. I walked away from the school wishing I could have done more. From what I’ve learned, we will always feel as though we can contribute more. But as young followers of Christ, it is our duty to keep doing service and spread the message of giving to others. I will forever cherish my time in Arizona. What seemed like small actions to me brought so much joy to the adults at SMASE. Little do they know, they changed my life forever.

    Cali Wingate ’21 is an Occupational Therapy Major.
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