Helping Mrs. Greenburg

Describe a significant life experience.

Three years ago, it had never crossed my mind to help people who were not part of my immediate sphere of family and friends. Instead, I adopted a convenient attitude of apathy when it came to service – never imagining that an invitation to volunteer in a local service project would completely redefine my thinking.At the beginning of the summer of my ninth grade year, I kept myself busy by doing as little as possible. One afternoon, however, a woman from my church called and asked if I would like to help out with a mission project our youth group was doing the next day. I had no idea what to say. I was not exactly thrilled at the idea of spending an entire day in the torrid Georgia heat raking yards and painting houses, but I did not have much else planned. Also, I reasoned it would be an easy way to log some community service hours for the honor society at school. Reluctantly, I agreed to help out with the project.The next morning I woke up at daybreak and outfitted myself in a pair of old jeans, some ragged work boots, and a baseball cap to keep the sun out – I felt ready to face a hard day’s work. When we arrived at the work site, I was stunned at what I saw. It appeared to be a house, but it was so overrun with weeds, thickets, and bushes that it was almost indistinguishable from its surroundings. I had never imagined any yard could warrant such a clean-up, much less one in my own community. When our group knocked on the doors of this small, dated mobile home, we were met by Mrs. Greenburg, the gentle ninety-year-old lady who lived inside. She was dangerously frail and sat in an old rocking chair in the middle of her single-room home. She had no television, computer, or any other modern entertainment device; she had only a single FM radio tuner for listening to gospel hymns. She had not left her house in the ten years since her husband had died, and she had no other family living nearby. I was shocked. Growing up in a loving middle-class family, I had never been exposed to someone of such solitude and destitution. I was immediately consumed by an immense compassion for Mrs. Greenburg and genuinely wanted to help, no matter how much work it would take. We spent the better part of the day diligently working on her yard and even built some new front porch steps, as hers had rotted and fallen down. We took a break only during lunchtime, when we all sat down and ate with Mrs. Greenburg. She told us stories ranging from her childhood in the twenties to how she had not driven a car in thirty years. We finally finished the job around four that afternoon, and the house and yard looked dramatically better than it had earlier. Mrs. Greenburg had a huge smile on her face, and she kept talking about how glad she was that we came to visit and help her. This put a big smile on my face as well.That day, I learned of the immense warmth that comes only from helping others. Through just one simple experience, my apathetic attitude toward service became eager and compassionate. Since then, regardless of how full my schedule becomes, I always take time out to help others in need. I have taken part in numerous school service organizations and local community clean-up projects, and even spent an entire summer as a volunteer tutor. I am determined to continue this service as I transition into college, so I can make others smile like Mrs. Greenburg did.  

Leave a Comment