This time last year, I did something crazy.
Last summer, I entered into a national charitable competition hosted by DoSomething.org.
The competition was basically a giant clothing and textile drive. That was it. It sounds so simple. Put a couple boxes in your student center and then count your items. Turn them all in at the end of September and whoever has the most wins.
That was it.
This time last year, I was hit with a lot of negativity.
There were 50 colleges competing in the clothing drive. Winning was truly not on my mind at the beginning. We were the tiniest school by a thousands of students. Most of our competitors were 40x our size. I wasn’t concerned though; I just liked the opportunity to serve. Truly, I was honored that we were even being recognized on a national level – and by my dream nonprofit no less!
But then people began to talk.
I was delusion. I was crazy. How could I imagine that tiny Westminster College would be able to compete at all? Did I realize how small of a university we were? Did I realize how big the other schools were?
I was an idiot for even trying.
And I sat there. And I listened to them talk. And I shook my head politely. And I wanted to explain that it wasn’t about winning. I wanted to explain that I was fully aware of the population differences. I wanted to explain that I wasn’t crazy, that I simply had a heart for doing good on whatever scale that meant.
But instead, I shrugged.
We’ll do our best.
And we did.
This time last year, I didn’t sleep.
I put more hours into this clothing drive than I thought humanly possible. It was my last semester of college and all I could eat, sleep, and breathe was empty boxes and articles of clothing. It was the single most overwhelming task I’ve ever undertaken. I didn’t sleep. I barely ate. I don’t know how I stayed afloat.
The competition was about collecting clothes but we knew it could be more. We ran social media campaigns. We had a booth at our back-to-school activity fair. We enlisted local churches. We reached out to the news outlets. We collected from the town, from alumni, from garage sales, from family and friends back home. We threw a fashion show. Yes, we threw a full blown event with a dance routine, some incredibly brave models and a whole lot of humor.
It was incredible. And then something amazing happened.
This time last year, I saw a turning point.
It didn’t matter what the naysayers had said at the beginning. And it wouldn’t have mattered what I had said back had I chosen to rebuke their statements.
The issue wasn’t about fighting back. It was about rising up.
It was about knowing that no matter what you do, people are going to tell you it isn’t good enough. They’re going to say you shouldn’t have done it. Or it doesn’t make sense. Or you’re crazy for trying.
And let them talk. Because while they’re busy telling you all the reasons it can’t work, you’re busy putting in the time to assure that it does.
This time last year, I witness a revolution.
I watched campus shift from one of doubtful apathy to one of excitement. I saw hundreds of students show up to help us load the U-Haul…and when we had to come back for another trip, I saw dozens more show up a second time, even though they had already loaded the truck once. I saw people burn bright with service and shine like fire when they realized how easy giving back could be. I saw people rally around a cause. More than that, I saw people rally around each other.
This time last year, tiny Westminster College in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, entered in a national service competition with DoSomething.org, the largest nonprofit for young people and social change.
This time last year, tiny Westminster College became a might force to be reckoned with.
This time last year, tiny Westminster College placed third in the competition.
This time last year, I was proud to be a Titan.
Thank you to everyone who made the Close the Loop Cup a wild success.