helping others, helping myself

I started my substitution military service full of inspiration. 6 months later, I finally sat down and started typing out an entry. I’ve had plenty of conversations with friends and family about the school here, what it’s like to make the 3-hour trek from Taipei to the mountain at 1650m altitude. However, it’s been difficult to put it all down into a coherent blog post.

I will say this – it’s not how I envisioned this would go. Of course, things rarely are. The older I get, the less fervor I have with regards to dreams and ideals. Is this growing up? or is it becoming jaded. Perhaps a little of both.

Over the past 6 months, I got to help with all aspects of running an elementary school. As a substitution service guy, I’m like the swiss army knife of the school – not meant or skilled enough for any specific job, but it’s what you have on hand so you just have to make do. I’ve made presentations, ran errands, drove students for competitions and field trips, planned lessons, made materials, disciplined students, corresponded with parents, met principals, talked to government staff, assisted in disaster relief, gone 4 days without running water, witnessed sub-zero temperature…and the list goes on. At times, it’s been exciting and fun. Other times, my day are dull and I sit idle waiting for the clock to strike.

Simply by looking back the past 6 months, I can draw a number of lessons from this journey that will undoubtedly shape my life for the better. The perspective of things, appreciation of things, and the hard lessons learned from within – my strengths and my weaknesses as a human being. Similar to my past time spent with community development programs in Ukraine and Swaziland – it seems like each time I set out to make a difference, to do something meaningful for the people there, I simply end up falling short of what I set out to achieve. It’s always the personal growth that tends to stick with me and magnify over the years instead of the stories of how I really made a difference. Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough, perhaps I’m not selfless enough. The days spent supposedly helping the less-fortunate become more of a personal journey guide.

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