by David Xi and Jada Wooten
This morning we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to croissants for breakfast. It was a fitting choice for our last breakfast all together. After we were fueled by the croissants, we were ready for our last day of service.
We took the crowded metro in order to get to McGill children center. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a swarm of kids and parents. They provided us with a boost of energy, before we went off to do our various jobs. Some of us painted a classroom, while others were working with the children. We were assigned to work on the mural. We had to think on our feet in order to get the mural done within the limited time frame. The project required us to make a lot of changes to our initial design and work with different types of tools, all while fielding questions from the eager kids. We were fortunate to have the help of many people throughout the process including our friends from Be The Change and staff at McGill. Even though there was unexpected moments, it was a great opportunity because it was exciting work with interesting people.
The excitement continued at our picnic lunch with our friends from Be The Change. It was slightly a steep walk to lunch, but it was totally worth it. We enjoyed delicious snacks and sandwiches. We amused ourselves by playing games such as Uno Flip. We even learned a new game called pow. We ended the picnic with a discussion of our experiences in Montrèal and a gift exchange. Unfortunately, the goodbye was cut short because we had to rush back to finish our service.
After the picnic, we went back to the children’s center and continued our mural. By the time we got back, the paint was dry so we did a second layer and perfected the details of the design. After that, Jada added the sketch of children holding hands in front of the trees. We painted the children in dark grey by mixing brown and blue to ensure that they could have universal representation and be symbolic of all people. Upon finishing the mural, we decided to leave the children a message and further enrich our work, so we wrote “The future of the world is in this playground” on the sides of the mural. This message—representative of the meaning of our painting—embodies our hope that those children, when they grow up, will make the world a better place and carry on the responsibility of human evolution and social progression. In their innocent eyes, we saw the possibilities of a future without hatred, prejudice, and conflict. Although their innocence likely won’t survive the cruel reality of the adult world, their current existence proves the kind, loving nature of humanity and reminds us of an alternative path of social evolution we can pursue, one that is honest, natural, and pure. And so, with an immense sense of fulfillment, hoping that our work will be an inspiration for these kids, we left the children’s center and concluded our service in Montreal.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Deville Diner in downtown. Since this was the last time we gathered together, Kim proposed that each of us say something nice to Marie-Laure to express our gratitude. We kept the plan for this little farewell ceremony a secret and waited until the end, when Marie-Laure was about to get up and pay for our dinner. We thanked her for putting so much effort into organizing this trip, for pushing our limits by requiring us to speak French, and for maintaining a positive atmosphere among the group no matter how difficult the situation was. We’ve had ups and downs, and there were times when we wanted to give up our set service goals, but Marie-Laure was always there to motivate and encourage us, knowing that this experience can only be meaningful if we try to make it so. We also expressed our gratitude for Renee and Kim, who took great care of us and were always there to keep us safe, reminding us of proper behavior when we were overly excited, and lightening the mood when we were low-spirited. Without them, this experience would’ve never been as rewarding and memorable as the past two weeks.
As this service trip came to an end, we must look back and reflect: what have we accomplished? How did the experience impact our own growths? What can we learn from this trip going forward? While this journey will be remembered and viewed differently by everyone in the group, what we can all agree on is that for the past two weeks, we brought positive changes to the local communities through our service at the food bank and at the school garden; in addition to that, our visit to the retirement home and the children’s center elevated the meaning of our service to the level of interpersonal and spiritual connection through the formation of our loving friendships. Our collaboration with local students allowed for the exchange and mutual-appreciation of our cultures as we saw so many similarities between us despite our different backgrounds, beliefs, and walks of life. Our love for life, our enthusiasm for service, our curiosity for new experiences, and our passion for activism is the proof that when united, the only difference between us that matters is the unique ways we can all contribute to the making of a better future. On this trip, we’ve witnessed the hardships of survival, experienced the power of grit and perseverance, and learned to understand the absolute necessity for human communications as it is the only way to eliminate bigotry and truly bring people together. If there’s one thing we wish all members of the GS community can take away from our service trip, it is that to change the world, we must begin by understanding each other—and ultimately, learn to love all people for who they are. In doing so, not only can we fundamentally obliterate the existence of unjust acts, we will be able to eradicate the source of those injustices and shine a light in the hearts of all humankind.