Life-changing SBA experiences seem to fade awfully fast

Maude Pritchett, Crier Staff

Spring Break Alternative has just gotten back from yet another round of service, and they are all on their soap boxes preaching words of charity and goodness. Now, they didn’t have these trips when I was in school so forgive this old lady if she is a little out of sorts with what the program actually is.

From what I can gather, SBA is a program where students go to foreign places either domestic or abroad, and provide volunteer services for a week. Students are sent by the school, and need to fundraise their own costs for the trip. It seems like a popular program that changes students in a spiritual way.

Or does it?

As you all know at this point, I am the eyes and ears of this campus. I know everything about everyone, and I am not afraid to make judgments on my observations.

Before they left, the SBA folks would get together and have meetings. They seemed almost ritualistic. I was waiting for symbols and sacrifices to appear. My, my…

They would meet to prepare themselves for what they were about to experience. It was as if they were going to another level, or outer space. They had mental and emotional preparation, and talked about what they were going to go through together.

In my day, that is how young men prepared for war, not a service trip.

Then when they got back from their missions, so many of them seemed condescending. Who knew servicing the poor could make wealthy college students so snotty?

They came back with almost a cult-like closeness. It was as though there was no way anyone could understand what they went through so they might as well not even explain the experience. Like a ritual, if you were not there you will never know.

What is humorous to dear old Maude, is that two weeks later, those same students have their lips attached to a bottle, downing as much alcohol as possible, in the name of St. Patrick.

Followed, of course, by smashing a glass bottle, which is ever fascinating to an intoxicated person.

Oh golly gee, do my eyes deceive me, or was that person preaching the name of service last week? The same one who littered glass shards for everyone in their community to step on?

Yes, it must be my spectacles.

I have also heard lovely things about SBA. I have heard the trips promote a sense of service that stays with students for years. It has changed what students want to do with their lives, and how they conduct themselves.

Sometimes, those lessons from the trips stick like sap to a tree, and change the drunken bottle smasher into the one cleaning it up. Experiencing a lifestyle so different from their own, with people who have so much less, can alter the way students assess their lives.

They discover that things for them are really not that bad at all.

There is no rhyme or reason for what makes a person evaluate service in one way or another, yet it is the same conundrum every year. Some change, and some stay exactly the same.

Here’s some advice from dear old Maude: those of you on that soapbox may want to step down among the people and really reassess what service means, and it does not start and stop with spring break.