By Tyler Reese
Deciding to embark on a year of service was certainly a difficult decision—probably the toughest decision I’ve had to make thus far in my life. However, as my time of service in Newcastle comes to an end, I can fully and confidently say that this, the most difficult decision I’ve had to make, was also the best decision I’ve ever made. In fact, I cannot imagine my life had I not taken the leap of faith and decided to serve in Newcastle.
This year has brought me happiness and love that I never expected. Though I expected I would meet amazing people, learn more about myself during this year, and develop new skills, I never could have imagined the immense joy, happiness, and love these experiences have brought me. I knew I would meet wonderful volunteers and Assumption Sisters with whom I hoped to develop strong relationships, but I never could have imagined they would provide me with such a strong sense of belonging. It is more than just a sense of community, it is a sense of family, and it's been a great comfort as I’ve lived far from my real family for the first time in my life.
Similarly, I expected to meet awesome people while working at Kids Kabin. I hoped to learn a lot of practical skills from them, but I never expected to develop such strong friendships and learn so much about life from them. Another thing I didn’t expect was meeting so many amazing people outside of work. But now, here I am, so blessed to be part of a community of friends from all over the world. Of course, saying goodbye to them will make leaving Newcastle very difficult.
One of the best things about meeting so many people from all walks of life and corners of the world is how much they can teach you, not just by their words but by how they live their lives. I have learned so much -- not just about the world but about myself as well – thanks to them. And I see that all that learning has been reinforced by my faithfulness to reflecting on each day in my journal. Learning to practice that kind of discipline was unexpected, too, but it’s borne some fruit.
I think we all know that it's easy to interact with others without there being any lasting impact on yourself; journaling, however, has allowed me to reflect on all these experiences. It has given me glimpses into who I am and my purpose in life and has taught me a little about the type of person I want to be. It’s helped me to take a little distance and reflect, to think about what I could learn, whether from the screaming child or the angry parent. Everyone, I’ve learned, has something to teach me – really, to teach us! We’ll only really learn that lesson, however, if we first learn to listen and to empathize. Those “skills” can help us see the good in everyone and in every situation.
Speaking of skills: when I first arrived at Kids Kabin, I was already pretty good at painting, cooking, and woodwork, and I hoped to improve my mastery of each. But I was quite afraid to even begin learning how to use the pottery wheel. A few months ago, however, something prompted me to give it a try. I have never looked back. Though deeply frustrating at times, especially at the beginning, using the pottery wheel has brought me joy, satisfaction, and tranquility. I never expected that.
Pottery has taught me so much about patience, persistence, gentleness, and empathy as well as the importance of living in the moment and accepting failure. In some sense, using the pottery wheel is akin to doing a year of service: it is difficult and intimidating at first, but once you take that first step and decide to dedicate yourself to it, you discover how insightful, rewarding, and satisfying it truly is.
Tyler Reese is a 23-year-old graduate of Niagara University. He is a native of LeRoy, NY, a small town not far from Buffalo. LeRoy is famous not only for being Tyler’s hometown, but also for the only museum in the world dedicated to Jell-O, the gelatin dessert. He enjoys playing the ukulele, drawing and painting, running and playing sports, as well as hiking with friends and his two dogs, all of whom eagerly await his return from England.