Okay, this isn't news, but it's cool. Back on May 2, the Broome County Council of Churches had its annual Faith in Action Volunteer Honors Breakfast. This year, they honored three volunteers, and one of the three was the youth program of St. Mark's. Our youth have participated in all of the annual summer ramp building prpjects of this program since its inception. Dozens of our teens have worked in the four summers, led by great adults: Dave Gridley, Dave Sugent, Ben Reid, and Eric Laine (I participate as comic relief).
I asked Dan Gridley to speak at the breakfast, representing the more than 50 teens from St. Mark's who have done this service project. And it was my honor to introduce him. I wish everyone from our parish (especially the teens) could have been there. But as a second best, here are the remarks Dan and I made:
My name is Mark Giroux, and I'm a recovering music education major.
In the 1970's, I got a degree in music education from the Crane School of Music in Potsdam. Before I finished, however, I decided I did not want to teach music. I wanted to go to seminary.
I also decided I did not want to work with teenagers. All my seminary friends had the same goal. When we were ordained, we would do anything for the church...except youth ministry.
It turns out that God has a wicked sense of humor. Guess what I've done a whole lot of...all through 26 years of priesthood: ministry to and with teens. It has been great. I am introducing to you one of the reasons why.
For 18 years, I have served St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Chenango Bridge. For all of those years, we have been blessed with terrific young people. Dozens and dozens of kids have grown up in the Sunday school, served as acolytes, and joined the youth fellowship.
And since the start of the Ramp It Up program, our teens have built a wheelchair ramp each summer for someone in need. I wish they could all be here today -- I admire and love each of them.
Let me introduce just one of them -- just one of the reasons I love my job. His name is Dan Gridley. He is a junior at Chenango Forks High School. He's a top student, a fine athlete (ask him about golf), and a musician. He comes from a wonderful family, whose friendship I treasure. I have had him preach. My parish suggested I might retire now and let him take over. But apparently he wants to work more than one day a week.
Dan is here to represent the dozens of kids from our church who have built these ramps and have had fun doing it. He and the other teens give me hope and optimisn for our future. Please welcome Mr. Dan Gridley.
Good morning, I am Dan Gridley, a junior at Chenango Forks High School. I am here today on behalf of the Ramp It Up team from St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
I have been attending St. Mark's for as long as I can remember. Many of my favorite memories exist because of the church. One that I will absolutely never forget happened a couple of years ago while working on a Ramp It Up project. A team of about six adults and twelve teens from St. Mark's spent a weekend building a wheelchair ramp at a house in Union Center. At the end of the last day, we were putting the finishing touches on the nearly completed ramp.
It had rained a lot those few days and consequently we had tracked a lot of mud on to the ramp. I was put in charge of hosing down the ramp to make sure it was good and clean before we left. I was on the top landing of the ramp, right next to where it connected to the house, when I noticed that the woman who we had built the ramp for was just on the other side of the door.
She proceeded to open the door and step out onto the top landing of the ramp. At this point I could see that she was choked up. She said that that was the first time she had been out of the house in years.
I was speechless. That was the point in my life that I realized how much a simple action can affect someone.
At the beginning of the project it seemed to me that we were just there to build a wheelchair ramp. By the end, I realized it was much more than that. We had changed somebody's life. We had given her the opportunity to go outside, even if it was only to get some fresh air. We had given her a simple freedom that most of us take for granted. Her raw emotion that day showed me that what we did meant so much more to her than I could ever imagine.
Then something strange happened to me. I got this geeling of accomplishment that I had never felt before. It wasn't pride but rather happiness in its purest state. I was elated that I was part of a group that could make a difference in somebody's life. It made me want to do more.
I've since worked on another wheelchair ramp and multiple feeding canteens for the needy. Every time I work on one of these projects, I get that feeling again. It doesn't get old. It amazes me that an action that is really so simple, can have such a major impact on somebody.
And so I encourage all of you to get out there and serve our community. There are so many different ways to get involved. Surely you can find something that you enjoy doing. You never know, you might just change somebody's life forever. Thank you.