The truckload of clothes we had collected had been sent ahead to Native American reservation in the American West. Our eager group of 12 highschool students followed on the first day of spring vacation. We intended to spend the first two days organizing and distributing the several tons of clothing donated by our St. Louis community. But I was not prepared for what lay ahead.
When we arrived, we were informed that all of the clothing had been stolen. The bleakness of the setting—the run-down houses with tarps for roofs and yards littered with junk cars—matched the bleakness of our mood. I was forced to take a step back and question my motives. Was this trip just about me being a good person and handing out clothes to poor people? There had to be more to it than that. Over the course of our weeklong stay, I gained a greater sense of my own purpose and an understanding of what is really needed to make a lasting difference in the lives of others.
One day, the student council treasurer of the reservation's high school showed us around the school. All I could think about was that she was several months pregnant. She told us she hoped to marry her boyfriend and would attempt to continue her education. Many of her classmates were not even considering college. My heart went out to her as I thought of the challenges she would face finishing school and raising her child.