There are a thousand and one things I love about my college. School spirit runs rampant, especially from September through December. We have an overwhelming sense of community, and band together in an instant during a time of crisis. People aren’t afraid to smile and wave at strangers and offer assistance to visitors whenever needed. Students are always willing to lend a helping hand in any way possible. I think it’s the latter-most item that makes me love VT the most. This weekend proved why.
Virginia Tech is home to the second-largest community service project in the nation, The Big Event. It’s basically a giant, one-day mission trip that gives students a chance to say “thanks” and give back to our community. Students form work teams and are assigned a project in the Blacksburg/Christiansburg area. The projects usually entail some kind of yard work or home maintenance for a family that might not be able to do the work on its own. I participated in the Big Event last year as a freshman, and enjoyed it so much that my friends and I formed a team this year, too.
Our project this year led us to the home of an adorable elderly couple about five miles from campus on the backside of Blacksburg. The first task of the day was gathering prickly sweet gum balls that had fallen from the sweet gum tree in the back corner of their yard. It didn’t look like a difficult job at first glance, but those little monsters are deceiving! Not only were there hundreds of them, but most of them were lodged into the ground, and we had to dig them out. After a good hour of battling the sweet gums, we completed the task, and moved on to task #2. For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, we cleared their back gardens and corners of their yard of all leaves and loose dead grass, revealing a thick layer of bright, spring-green grass. There were so many leaves! It was like they materialized in the grass as soon as one pile had been taken away! Regardless, the leaves were cleared, and the couple’s yard was the best-looking yard on their street!
As thanks for our work, the husband made us delicious Reuben sandwiches for lunch. I had never had a Reuben before, and I must say my first experience was a good one! The couple sat outside with us as we ate our sandwiches, and we all swapped stories about our childhoods, families, homes, majors, etc. We were so fortunate to be able to spend our day with such a wonderful couple. They didn’t have to make us lunch, but they were generous and kind, and we couldn’t thank them enough. After lunch, the wife told us about a park and trail just down and across the street from their property, and even walked down there with us! She let us on our own when we found the trail because her knees couldn’t handle the uneven ground for a long period of time. Along the trail, we discovered an abandoned cemetery with headstones dating back to the mid-1800s and a vacant farm with all of its old buildings and structures. At the end of the trail, there was even a playground! Now that was fun! I had not played on swings or had slide races since elementary school. It was so nice to embrace my inner little kid and play like I used to in childhood.
The entire day was a blessing in itself. It’s hidden gems like the barn and cemetery that really make me love being at Virginia Tech, and love what I do while I’m here. The couple we worked for was the nicest couple I had ever met, and they seemed genuinely thankful and grateful for our efforts. And that’s a really rewarding feeling…knowing you made someone’s day by doing something as small as raking leaves and cleaning up sweet gum balls (although I do admit, I now have a little bit of a vendetta toward those boogers…I want to pick them up and throw them away every time I see them).
One Big Day, One Big Thanks. That’s how we do it here at Virginia Tech.
P.S. Did I mention it’s only our eleventh year doing a Big Event? Yeah, we’re champs.