We all yearn to be part of something bigger than ourselves, something significant and meaningful; something that will mark our sojourn on this earth long after we are gone.
Some of us answer this call naturally through our vocations, others in the raising of our children, and still others in ministry or artistic outlets. Maybe it’s all of the above, or more than the above, or some of the above at different times in our lives.
While visiting Summit one day last summer, I met a couple who have answered this call in a very unique way. Two weeks out of every summer Marty and Rhonda Riley drive from Nebraska to volunteer at Summit. They help with general maintenance, domestic care, and cooking and cleaning in the kitchen.
Talking with Marty over lunch, I found out they had been doing this quietly and faithfully for twenty years! Rhonda had been doing it another ten before they got married! Over this time they have developed long-term friendships with many of the faculty and staff and influential relationships with many students. I thought to myself, “What a terrific way to serve this next generation!” and vowed to get in on the action. I asked Marty if I could join them the following summer (2015) during their annual pilgrimage.
That opportunity arose early June of this year.
While working as Marty’s “apprentice” during Summit Colorado, Session 2, we drained sludgy, slimy water (along with a dead raccoon!) out of the swimming pool and power washed it for summer use. We installed air conditioners, trimmed evergreens, and organized tool sheds. We disassembled and moved furniture and ripped out carpet and linoleum flooring. We sealed a concrete patio. We served into the early hours of a Sunday morning helping staff cope with the unexpected failure of the main water line that feeds the Hotel fire sprinkler system. We enjoyed fellowship, conversation, and meals with each other, the staff, and the students.
During my seven days I was impressed by three things:
- The incredible dedication and love demonstrated by all Summit staffers towards the students.
- The staffers’ can-do attitude. They shined the brightest after the flooding incident in the Hotel, staying up late doing whatever needed to be done, without complaint. Student safety was a priority. Everything ran on schedule the next day;
- The incredible amount of logistical support that keeps things running smoothly – from food deliveries to cooking and cleaning for over 200 people three times/day to keeping restrooms running and stocked.
The best part, though, was the opportunity to interact with the students. They were bright, articulate, fun loving, inquisitive and eager to engage. Whether talking over meals, playing Dutch Blitz, or hiking the Incline, listening to their passions and concerns for the future or their plans for college provided a taste of the Summit experience and afforded me the privilege of occasionally offering sexagenarian wisdom and perspective. I was able to make life connections.
Between you and me, I think I got the better end of the deal with Summit! Thanks Marty and Rhonda!