Fortnight for Freedom Essay Winner - Lonnie Garrett
Maryvale Preparatory School
For many, freedom is typically an idea that is usually only associated with the ideal United States. After all, we live in a nation that was built upon idea and associations behind the word and has attempted to make it one of its trademarks. Yet, one of the most significant freedoms available remains that of religious freedom, which besides meaning one has the freedom to practice to the religion of their choice, takes on an additional meaning for Christians. For Christians, it is not only our freedom, but our call to serve others as Jesus served us. While this idea manifests itself differently in all, my opportunity to respond to this call came from what began as a school requirement.
At the beginning of my junior year of high school, our grade was assigned with a very different task as part of our social justice class; twenty-five hours at a single service site with any marginalized population. Weary of the assignment and desperate not to do it alone, a friends and I decided to volunteer at a local retirement home. Tasked merely with the job of assisting elderly in the dining hall, I never would have imagined this to be anything terribly meaningful and much less not me “living the Gospel”. Yet, the more days I went there and the more hours I served my viewpoint was completely transformed. As I began to develop relationships with the elderly, what I saw were not crotchety seniors as I had expected, but instead genuinely grateful individuals who never ceases to find something to smile about or some kind words to say. More importantly, I found myself performing service not because it was required of me, but because it was something I wanted to do. Moreover, beside of being personally enriching, service allowed me to better understand the needs of the elderly and the difference the seemingly smallest acts of kindness can mean to another person. Service allowed me to broaden my horizons in ways I would have never imagined possible.
Yet, what truly has put the impact service can have and has had into perspective has largely been the presence of a Catholic education. Growing up, I had always understood in theory the concepts and teaching behind serving others. Up until this point though, I had merely understood service as something to be done because it was the right thing to do. Now, service has taken on a deeper meaning for me. I now see it as an aspect of Christianity that truly has the power to bring satisfaction. Service has helped me above all to see Christ’s face in all who I encounter, no matter their age, race, sex, or other defining characteristic. More significantly though, service became one more way I could show thanks to God and give back. God gave us all the freedom, gave us all among many gifts, the freedom to choose how to spend our lives. I choose to serve.