St. Olaf CollegeLilly Program for Lives of Worth and ServiceSt. Olaf College

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About the Lilly Grant Program

Lilly Grant Program for Lives of Worth and Service
Bruce Dalgaard, Program Director
Old Main Annex 3
1520 St. Olaf Avenue
Northfield, MN 55057

507-646-3626 Fax

Hannah Wallisch

Final week of youth camp, Thursday night in a candlelit chapel: this is Light Service, the culminating event of a week at camp. It has been a long week-- good, but long. The kids are sunburned. I am tired. Everyone drags a little, sad to leave this new family, sniffling at the thought of going home tomorrow and leaving this place for a whole year. Our program director stands in the front of the chapel and talks about service. This is the eighth time I have heard this speech: Go home, and take a spirit of servanthood with you. Your counselors have been here to serve you all week, and now they want to share one final act of service with you. They want to wash your feet.

I shuffle to the front of the chapel and kneel in front of a chair and a basin of water as my first camper, Clara, sits down and slips her flip flops off. The candlelight flickers as I go through the motions of this weekly ritual: lift her foot and set it gently in the warm water, wash it, and then pat it dry with a soft towel. I stand up to hug Clara, and as my eyes meet hers, my tiredness falls away as I look back on the small ways I have served this week. I haven't cured cancer, but I have cured homesickness for a scared and crying ten year-old girl. I haven't saved a city from destruction, but I have put up a tent that sheltered my girls, my children for one week, from a seemingly endless rainstorm. I haven't changed the world, but I have changed the existence of a group of campers for a week.

In the past, "living a life of service" has always made me think of overseas mission work or ordained ministry. These are all amazing acts of service, but my time as a summer camp counselor revealed to me the quiet, less obvious acts of service that can be performed in day-to-day existence. Answering "God Questions" in Bible study, asking another counselor how their day was and really caring about their response, pulling weeds in the camp garden, and listening to campers tell story after story about their pets and adventures: this was my service. It will continue for the rest of my life, no matter where I go or what I find as my career or calling, in all of the small, everyday ways that I can share God's love with the world.