Stories: serving your neighbor

Last week I started a new project – sharing and encouraging the contribution of #stories. At the end of this 5-week series I’ll make a wordle with all the stories we tell. You can contribute by leaving a comment here or DM-ing me on Twitter (@allisonsiburg). Each prompt is a little different, but each is fueled by this desire to listen to your story and the desire to tell a story – telling the world something that is true.

This week’s prompt is: Tell me a story of when you served your neighbor.

I was a sophomore in college when the shootings at Virginia Tech happened. I was working the front desk at my residence hall (go Ordal!) that whole evening when it hit me. As I said “Hi” and “Welcome to Ordal,” not many were really responding like the usual students I had come to know. It was because the news of the shootings felt very real. Here we were on a college campus ourselves, hearing of another school shooting. Anxiety was high, and being an anxious person myself, I knew I wasn’t alone. We needed a place to feel safe, to grieve, and to be in community.

So, I called my eight fellow front desk workers across campus and asked them to create make-shift signs advertising a candlelight vigil on red square that night. I called the campus ministry office and a student leadership group I was a part of to start spreading the news that this was happening tonight. Candles, guitars, songs, prayers. It was time. Another one was planned a couple days away. But this needed to happen tonight, because students were scared and lonely. It was time to make something happened, so I did.

Candlelight vigil, 4.16.07 Russ Carmack's
PLU Candlelight vigil for the Virginia Tech community, April 2007, courtesy of Russ Carmack.

I expected 10 people from my wing and some friends to show up. Instead, more than 10 came, and a friend of a friend brought some song sheets and lead us in song with their guitar. Campus ministry staff brought a ton of candles to us each to hold. Leaders from a non-denominational campus group also came. People I didn’t recognize came. Staff with their Virginia Tech alumni sweatshirts came with their families.

It was an overwhelming affirmation that the tug I felt inside me to serve my neighbor was real. It wasn’t self-serving or ill-timed or inappropriate. It was needed and it reminded me that even the smallest ideas can become big acts of love. That’s all I want my life to be – small and big acts of love for people I know and people I don’t know. I’m hopeful I made at least one student feel like they were loved and had a place to be on a rough day.

Tell me a story of when you served your neighbor by leaving a comment or leaving me a DM @allisonsiburg!


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