Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bishop Hendricken: Garrrr!

From November 14-20 we had a group of all guys from Bishop Hendriken High School in Warwick, Rhode Island. We had heard from a former Farm Manager that this group was pretty wacky but since different groups from the same school can be different we were interested to see how it went. Turns out our information was reliable and these kids were decidedly wacky. It was a super fun week that had a bunch of laughs.

The week started off with a night hike up to Armstrong cemetery to do some stargazing. It was a great night site because it was so close that it afforded us a lot of flexibility. Thinking back on it, it epitomized what the Farm is about. It's not often that we take the time to just sit back and look at stars. First off, most of us live in areas where the lights from the city make it almost impossible to see the stars. Second, we lead such busy lives that they rarely afford us the opportunity to sit back and actually look at the stars. So this simple activity was a great way to introduce the kids to the simplicity of the Farm. The kids showed their goofiness right away by spending much of the time figuring out a way to make a Hannah Montana constellation.

Something that really struck me about this group was the sincerity they brought to service. It's one thing to say you're going to serve, it's another to really go out of your way to make that effort to really serve everyone you can. These guys did that surprisingly well. They were always looking for jobs to do and were never satisfied when they finished whatever task they were initially given. This was evident right on the first work day. I was with two groups that day in Tollesboro at both the food and clothing pantry. The clothing group spent the day sorting clothes, as usual, while the food side put out much of the food for box making and also made some of the Thanksgiving boxes. Toward the end of the day, I ran over to the clothing side to tell them to start tidying up after which I raced back to the food side. I was shocked when shortly after I left them, the boys showed up on the food side, looking to help in any way they could. They could have just finished their job at the clothing pantry and could have easily (and justifiably) rested up until the others were finished. But they weren't satisfied just finishing their own job. They wanted to serve in any way they could and went the extra mile.

This week was also a week for finishing tasks. On that first day, the actually kids finished sorting the entire back pile of bags. It was really a culmination of a lot of hard work from previous groups. It felt really great to see that completed because it was a pet project of the Farm Managers. We never thought we would see the day when that huge pile was ever fully sorted. In addition, I got to work on the last day at the Thomas Colvin construction site at Fuller Branch. It was interesting to work on the last day at a site. It's not often that we get to see the tail end of a job. It was nice knowing that the very next day a family was going to move into the home we were working on.

There was a feeling of familiarity running through the week. For Jamie and Colleen, hearing the New England accents and slang was like having a little bit of home brought to them. It was similar to when the Notre Dame kids came in a few weeks ago and I felt so good hearing and talking about familiar sights. The two of them were so enthused by hanging out with people that knew the same places they did and I can see why. For me, the familiarity was rooted in a reason other than geography. Bishop Hendriken is an all boys school. While I never attended an all boys school, I did live in an all boys dorm for the last 4 years. Watching and listening to all the ridiculousness of the week really reminded me of living in Alumni Hall. There was such a sense of community and fun that permeated the week that reminded me of the camaraderie of living with
all guys. There's a sense of goofiness and energy when you get a bunch of guys together in one place. These guys definitely showed that very well. There were plenty of games of knockout and frisbee. We played G-H-O-S-T on almost all car rides and it was rare that anyone ever escape getting crap for something they did. Nicknames abounded and the sayings of the day were always interesting. It was also the first time I've ever seen pirate duels on the Farm. I came out of the staffhouse one day to find that the boys had grabbed any and all available sticks and had staged a pirate duel on the picnic tables. This was of course on Steve the Pirate Tuesday (There was a guy named Steve in the group). It was really nice being able to experience that sort of community again.

The group also brought a really cool element to reflection. The group always did their own reflection after we ended each night. On the last night, the chaperones included the Farm Managers in their reflection. They used a prayer structure known as an Emmaus Walk. It's based around the disciples meeting and, at first, not recognizing Jesus on the road to Emmaus. It was a really great way to look back on the progression of the week for the kids. They were able to see how they were changed by the week in a way that focused on their personal discovery of Jesus. It was a surprisingly in depth reflection for a group of high schoolers but they were more than up to the task. Their answers showed that they had really put a concerted effort into thinking about how Jesus had been present that week. It was an excellent end to a great week.

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