I traveled in March with six Carroll students to Florida as part of Carroll’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program. Each year, Carroll sends students and advisors across the country to spend their spring break in service. This was my first such trip, and to be honest, I was a little nervous. Taking a group of students, some of whom I didn’t know at all, a thousand miles away to work on projects, some of which were undefined until we arrived, felt a bit daunting.
With the help of a grant from the Presbytery of Milwaukee, we flew into the Tampa Bay area on a Monday and headed to Cedarkirk Camp and Conference Center about an hour inland. We spent three days at this Presbyterian camp installing an outdoor labyrinth. A labyrinth is a single, winding path—not a maze—that leads to a center point. It’s used in many faith-based settings for prayer, contemplation or as a walking meditation tool. We then traveled to St. Petersburg, where we assisted in repairing a home whose roof had been ripped off by a hurricane a year and a half ago. Our final day was one of sabbath and fellowship together at Clearwater Beach.
To be clear, our team worked hard. We spent full days leveling land, laying bricks, sanding and priming. It felt good to see how much we could accomplish and to feel our group set into a rhythm of work together. But for me, the most treasured moments were ones of laughter, community and fun. There was the Disney sing-along while we worked on the labyrinth, the game of euchre during the rainstorm, creating Jonah’s whale out of sand on the beach and taking selfies with students who watched the sunset over ocean water for the first time in their lives.
These moments don’t have measurable outcomes. They don’t fit in assessment reports or fill up résumés. But they are memorable lessons in a life worth living. The joy of sharing in service and sabbath together is priceless. Play is as sacred as productivity, laughter as holy as silence.
Carroll’s students, like so many of us, are driven to succeed. They strive for good grades and good jobs and to be contributing members of society, sometimes sacrificing joy in the process. Opportunities like the ASB trips don’t just underscore the value of service. They invite students to remember the importance of joy, to savor the satisfaction of giving, to treasure the blessing of play and to relish the company of friends. No life is complete or meaningful without these things.