Adventures In Antioch-Land – Swing, Service

The motion of The Swing brings out some awfully intense psychological processes. With each pump of my legs, with each elevation higher, with each head back watching the tree above me come and go, come and go, my brain fires up a notch and emotions seem to surge. Something inside me which cannot quite release itself tries even harder, and I find myself on the verge of crying, of laughing hysterically, of primal screaming, of something. Anything. Only I don’t know what exactly it should be so instead I pump harder. Harder and harder, until the earth and the sky whirl about at an incredible pace, and the air whips about my body as though confused – what is this girl doing? Christ I cannot keep up with her!

I laugh at it, the wind. It may be confused but it feels wonderful. It all does. Even the tears streaming down my face.

Eventually my lungs begin to get irked. I can ignore the tightness and resistance of my legs, arms, and hands but my lungs will put up with only so much. One last pump and the power ends. Slowing down, I lean back as far as I can. The trees are my ground and the earth, my sky. Above me the tree which supports me continues to fly back and forth, back and forth in front of my eyes, slowing, slowing. So much green… I come to a stop.

. . . .

After my swing I gathered my things and headed to Main Bldg. I was early, and eventually met several old Bonners, CCL folks, a VISTA, and Cheryl Keen, Bonner Director and hence my Academic Adviser. “It’s so nice to finally meet you!” she said upon hearing my name. “Seth’s told me so much about you; ‘You’re going to love her!’ he said. He’s your biggest fan!” I laughed and told her that he was just showing me off, that I was, in his words last night, his “catch.”

She immediately asked if I wanted to help her run the retreat. “Sure!” I replied, like a good little City Year alum. I did some work and before we parted we talked a bit about service. I said I was going to have to figure out what to say during the retreat, because I’d been there so long, and I tend to remember the bad stuff because at the end it was mostly that, and I gave her some examples of my lack of support and general organizational mayhem.

That wasn’t, of course, what it all was, but right now as I’ve had enough, that’s what it feels like. So I need to begin reflecting upon some of the nice things that really made a difference, to myself and others, in significant or small, indirect ways. Regarding the latter, it’s obviously all important, and one has to really come to terms with that because the small differences are the most common, if not the only one will accomplish in a lifetime. Regarding the former, I believe that affecting oneself is just as important as affecting others in service – because only one has the power over one’s own attitude and destiny, and the better the outlook one has on life, the more successful one will be in helping others. A miserable person will not help anyone, regardless of good intention – it has to come from a content place within one’s heart.

Similar to Zen, which believes that in order to save the world one needs to find one’s own true center – only then can one become a truly compassionate person. Because only then will one have achieved a level of comfort and stability within oneself and that realization that every individual is the same as any other.

I have come a long way as a person these last few years, largely thanks to my service. I have found a way to help my world and my fellow human being and as such, have discovered a place for me in the world and for my compassionate, caring, empathic side. And though I cannot say for certain whose life was affected more – my own or those of the many with whom I’ve worked over the years – I know that the difference made to me will ensure that I will always try to make my piece of the world better for myself and everyone else in it.

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