Getting Comfortable With The Uncomfortable
by Jstyn Strain
In June of this year (2018) my sister and I decided to do something we had never done before – we signed up to go on a 100% volunteer trip to Jamaica for a week. Going into the trip, neither one of us really had much of an idea about what to expect. This trip was a religious trip, though my sister and I are not very religious. We knew it would get us out of our comfort zones religiously as well as socially by making us interact with people we would never work with otherwise. What we discovered when we got there we could never have expected.
We went into the trip with very low expectations. Not that we did not think we would enjoy it, we just literally did not know what to expect, which was nerve racking yet exciting. We were expected to live as the Brothers and Sisters lived in their hostels. This meant prayer at 5:30 AM, noon, 9 PM, as well as silence for an hour a day and late night discussions. We also were without AC, hot water, wifi, and other common luxuries that most Americans have. Our meals were rice and some kind of meat every day, with bread and jelly as snacks. And being in the hostel ended up being the part of the trip we were most comfortable with.
Working in the shelters was the challenging part. Instead of the normal building shelters and handing out food, we were asked to do a lot more hands on work with the residents of the shelters. The residents living here were people who lived with severe mental and physical disabilities. Without the help of the Brothers and Sisters who have dedicated their lives to serving others, as well as the relatively small amount of volunteers, these people would quite literally be left of the streets to die. We as volunteers were expected to do anything the residents would need help with. This included clipping nails, playing with the kids, helping stretch residents with severe muscular disabilities, feeding, and even bathing residents.
I will admit day one in the shelters was scary. I had no clue how to go about feeding another person and how to talk to the residents with different mental disabilities who are unable to respond. It was challenging. I kept thinking about what it was like to be them and how hard their lives are in comparison to mine.
It took me a while to become comfortable with the trip, but after that initial 48 hours I was in full gear and very excited for anything that came my way. I started enjoying feeding the residents and interacting with them. Though many were able to have lengthy conversations, learning how to communicate through touch and see them light up as we painted their nails was extremely rewarding. I learned a lot about the power of loving others in need and understanding what they have to go through. What shocked me the most was how happy all these residents were. Even though many were disabled in some fashion, nearly all of them were always so happy to see us and so excited for us to spend the day with them.
The trip as a whole taught me a lot. It showed me that the simple things in life are the things that are truly important and that living this way will often make you a happier person. It also taught me to live disciplined and not take things for granted and to understand that what I have is a gift not a right. I’m a big believer in getting out of your comfort zone to grow as a person and because of this I would definitely do this trip again and I plan to do many more eye opening volunteer trips like this one.