When first arriving in a new country such as Belfast, Northern Ireland I had no idea how to spend my free time. I knew where my house was, I knew how to get to each of my work sites, and I knew how to get to the other YAV house across town. I also knew how to get to city centre where I could spend all of my money, but I wanted to save it and find new and interesting things to do. My first couple months were exciting and different but when I wasn’t at work I was at a loss of where I should go. I didn’t want to bug people and have them go out of their way to entertain me so I would go to work and then come home and watch Netflix. Netflix is a great invention for nights when you can’t sleep or to use when you have some down time. For me it became a part of my daily routine. My minister, Jonny, joked that I should write a blog post about how many different series I watched over the course of my year. After hearing this I thought I should probably find some new ways to spend my time. It almost became embarrassing when people would ask me what I was doing after church or work, I would say in an embarrassed voice, “Uh, watch some Netflix I think?” Realizing that this was not the way I should be starting my year I came up with a mantra for myself, say yes to everything. I had never lived by these words before but little did I know it was going to make the difference between a year of service and a lifetime of change.
By saying yes to everything I found myself going on adventures I never thought was possible. Most days I was invited to do simple chores and errands around town with people from my church. I would usually go to the post office or the grocery store with people. This then led to me going home for a wee cuppa (tea and a biscuit) afterwards which led to me starting new hobbies and creating relationships with people I might never have had the chance to meet. I learned how to knit, I learned how to bake certain Northern Irish delicacies, and I deepened relationships. My not so busy work week turned into a not so busy Netflix week. I joined more groups in my church and learned that being a part of a group is easier to do when your time allows it. Saying yes opened my mind, my heart, and my schedule to the people I saw every week. It became routine to knit for hours on end on Tuesday afternoons with my dear seventy-two year old friend Leonora instead of watching Gossip Girl. It would be a lie to say I gave up Netflix completely during the rest of my year, but the sense of community I gained by giving it up a little was amazing. I have never felt more in tune with a community as I did last year. The tasks may have seemed boring, and the people inviting me to come along with them to do errands often apologized to me for it being boring chores. I told them not to apologize because the time I spent with them was time I wasn’t alone in my house watching Netflix. The time with them was the difference between my year of service and my lifetime of change.