by Emily Warriner
Central Michigan University, 2015 Legacy Scholar
One of the greatest pieces of advice I have been told is to find the limits of my comfort zone, the “box” I put myself in, and break it. “Break the box,” they told me. As I started college, I told myself that I was going to live by those words—I would branch out and try new things, do things that I would have never done before. I don’t think I really understood how impactful this advice was until this summer.
Serving with scholars on the Summer Elks Scholar Service Trip in Chicago was something unlike I had ever done before. Traveling to Chicago with people I had never met before was definitely outside of my comfort zone. I think this was part of the reason I was attracted to the trip—it was an incredible opportunity to do something I had never done before, and I wanted to put that advice into action. I wanted to break my perceived limits.
What really surprised me by the end of the week was how much I was changed because of this trip. Going into it, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I think that was what made it so impactful. I went into this trip with no preconceived notions of how I should feel or how my life would be different by the end of it—I was completely open to whatever was going to come my way. And it honestly changed my life.
This trip taught me so much. At the beginning of the week, we did an activity where we wrote down our definition of service on an index card. We kept what we said to ourselves and did not look at the cards during the week. On the last night, we looked at our definition and talked about how it had changed because of the trip. My original definition I still agreed with by the end of the week, but I had added some aspects. I’ve learned that service is giving of yourself selflessly, wholly, and entirely to put the needs of someone else above your own. Service has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with those I am serving. I guess it never really clicked until now that I have to completely step aside and take what I may get out of the experience out of the equation. I’m not there to get something out of it. I’m there to serve. And I’ve learned that having that attitude leads to more meaningful connections and an overall absolutely incredible and meaningful experience.
I’ve also learned that letting go of the word “can’t” has a huge impact with service. There have been service opportunities that I have passed over because I’ve thought, ‘Oh, I can’t do that, I’m not good enough at that.’ But what I found is that if I stop thinking like that, there’s no limit to the type of service I can participate in. I’m not artistically talented, but I was able to work together with my Elks family to put up part of a mosaic on the wall of an elementary school. I have a tendency to be nervous of saying the wrong thing around people, but I was able to overcome that fear and make some incredible connections with veterans. This is something I never would have thought I could do, but working with my fellow Elks scholars, I felt as if though there was nothing we couldn’t do.
I am so thankful for the people I had the opportunity to serve with that week. We started out as strangers and left as a family. It was amazing how quickly we meshed together and how much fun we had. From working together at the service sites, to “fam dinners,” to exploring the city, to late night card games, we shared an incredible experience that will stay with me forever. One of my fellow scholars, Dani Richetelli, said, “You know that ‘Elks family thing? Yeah, it’s real.” I agree wholeheartedly, it really is.
This trip was incredible. It was an experience that I will never forget, and one that I completely intend to build upon. I am so thankful to the Elks for providing an opportunity to learn, serve, and connect with other Elks scholars while serving those who served. I broke the box, and it lead me to an experience that has completely changed my life.