I believe that it is safe to assume that as a Lasallian Volunteer we have been called to live a year or two of faith, service and community. Every LV is exposed to a service experience at one point in their life, whether that occurs in their younger years, high school or college. The call to service affects each and every one of us differently. Some LVs knew from the moment they found out about this program that they wanted to join; where as for others it took a time of discernment. Either way we all ended up here for a reason. My journey, however, was a rocky one.
I was born and raised in a small Southern town. I went to a public school where I knew almost every face that would walk through the doors. My only sense of community came from the experience of living in a place where you knew almost everyone by name. My exposure to service stemmed from my active participation in the Boy Scouts of America. We would work together as a community through various volunteer opportunities. During this time in my life I began to appreciate the work I was doing. I loved reaching out and helping others, and in doing so it brought a sense of pride and fulfillment to my life. However, being an over weight redheaded Boy Scout in my school was not beneficial to my social life. I was bullied for being in the scouts and for my appearance. So I did the only thing a child would do; I pulled away from it all. I became bitter and hateful and would start fights with my parents for no reason. I felt as if I was alone and scared in the world. I did not know how to cope with these feelings so I hid them from everyone.
After dealing with these feelings and personal battles for a long time I came to the realization that I needed to make an effort to help others. I did not want them to feel the way I did when I was bullied. I became overly social and helpful; I started to go out of my way to help people that I barely knew because I felt as if I was making a difference. I thought that I could help change the world, and to do that I had to start with one small act then work my way up. After a while I felt as if I was not making a difference, this became very stressful and overwhelming. I needed a new way to cope with this. I found that running did the trick. The more I ran the better I felt, which led me to join my high school cross country team. My running career exploded from there. I was running every day in high school and continually saw improvements. Running became my life and I slowly faded away from all the service that I was doing.
At the start of college I thought I could escape old feelings and previous challenges, but everyday I felt like I was living a lie. I felt vulnerable. So I did the one thing I knew that would help: I ran. I became a walk-on runner for my school (Christian Brothers University) and I felt as if my life was coming back together again. I felt less vulnerable everyday and I felt accepted at school. I was a college athlete, I had a girlfriend, I was in a fraternity, and I had a job. It seemed like I was on top of the world, but on the inside I knew I was missing something. Years previous I had a friend join the LV program and he would call me and tell me all about it. This is what really sparked my interest, but because of everything else in my life I placed it in the back of my mind. Towards the end of my senior year I became a TA at CBU. I loved helping the students succeed and sharing my knowledge with them. I decided at that point that I wanted to continue working with students, but I didn’t know how or where to start. At the same time I was doing this, a good friend of mine was applying for Lasallian Volunteers. After she was accepted I knew that I was also being called to serve with this program. The aspects of faith, service and community all appealed to me, I had to embody these principles.
The Lasallian principles set by St. John Baptist de La Salle can be a challenge to live by on a day-to-day basis. With this said, though, it is something that none of us have to live alone. The beautiful thing about being a Lasallian is that there are other people who believe in the same principles. It is a bonding experience that is felt through the soul.
How are you going to change the world? How will you find this experience?
Matt Billings is a first year LV serving at La Salle Academy in New York, NY. He is a graduate of Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee.