Katie Lynch

Interact Student, ROMS Liaison


Today, my group spent our time working at the camp. More specifically, we worked around the small pond in back, using a scythe to help control the overgrown plants that surrounded the water’s edge. It was arduous work, but the serenity of our surroundings, and the good company we kept were more than enough to keep ourselves motivated and working.

As we neared the completion point of our tasks for the day, we were joined by a man named Robert, who is one of the key people helping to get the camp back up and running. He noticed what we had been working on, and began to read us a poem by Robert Frost, entitled “Mowing”. 

“‘There was never a sound beside the wood but one, and that was my long scythe whispering to the ground. What was it whispered? I knew not well myself,’” Robert began.

When the poem was finished, he looked up at the four of us, and asked, “What do you think the scythe whispered to the ground?”

Knowing this was my honest answer, I responded that I didn’t know. Robert smiled, and said he didn’t either.

It seemed like a moment straight out of a movie, dramatic pauses and all. And as Robert walked away, preoccupied by some other task, I couldn’t get what he had said to us out of my head. What had the scythe whispered to the ground?

Lilli and I mulled it over for a while, analyzing the meaning and metaphors interwoven within Robert’s question. Eventually, we came to a consensus that this question could be rephrased in a way that might have been easier for us to understand: What was it that made the long days of laborious work withstood during Alternative February Break more appealing to us than the long days of mental “labor” that we endured at school?

The answer was simple, and it came to us almost immediately. While this was not a question that we had necessarily thought about before, the concept was not a difficult one to grasp. It was merely a matter of perspective.

Lilli and I agreed that quite often, it’s difficult to comprehend what we work towards in school. Doing well on a test or turning in a hefty project may render a feeling of immense satisfaction, yet this is short-lived; there is always something more. Another grade, another school, another degree. At times, the system can seem never-ending. Not to say that school is unimportant to us, or that we don’t have major goals for our future, but we both recognized that it can be very difficult for school to seem like a rewarding experience, especially in the short-term.

The work we have done thus far on Alt Feb, as well as what we experienced last year, was completely different. This experience is genuine and real, and every day it is easy to understand why we work, why we sacrifice what we do in order to go tear down a wall, or chip off old paint from a house. We do this because we know the work we do makes a difference, and we never need to question this. The cars honking at us and the people waving are more than enough to fully realize the impact we are making on the city and people of Trenton, North Carolina.

I used the word “rewarding” to encompass the Alt Feb experience. On the one hand, the work we do helps others, plain and simple. We give them reasons to keep hope, and the means to make a change. And on the other hand, the work we do gives ourselves a chance to find ourselves, and understand life a little bit more. This could be something as simple as understanding an old poem as it pertains to our current situation. But it also gives us a reason to come back, and instills in us the drive to go out into the world, and do as much good as we possibly can do.