Ben Cashman, a GALA Volunteer of the Year, is busy with the process of applying for college. This is an application essay he wrote about his experience with GALA:
I walked hurriedly down the long dirt driveway towards the large circle of roughly thirty people. The embarrassed feeling of eyes drawn towards me crept into my chest and I cursed my lateness. That feeling doubled as I noticed the group all dressed in uniform black shirts. Josh smiled as I approached, “Aww Ben man, you didn’t get the black shirt memo!” I managed a grin back at him as I looked everywhere but down at my white shirt looking starker than ever, “I guess not.” I repressed anger remembering how I’d texted Josh earlier reminding him that I was coming to help him out today and somehow he missed the opportunity to hit me with the black shirt info. “Looks like you’re helping out in the back with food prep then. Ha!” This of course got a chuckle out of the crew of black shirts. My face burned red.
I had been volunteering with Josh regularly for the past two summers and found that I enjoyed it thoroughly. I had been hooked up with him by none other than my dear mother, who was constantly on the lookout for enriching activities for her son. My family has always fostered a soft spot for the beauty of nature and through that established a concern for the environment. So my mom got involved with Josh when she heard of his local non-profit, GALA, Global Awareness Local Action. A catchy and inspiring title for a group interested in taking action to curb human destruction of the environment but avoiding getting caught up in the immense volume of problems. Josh worked with a cool and collected happiness that attracted many volunteers. He was only a few years out of college and he struck me as the perfect person to become my mentor as I admired so many of his qualities. This particular night was important to GALA as it was their annual Farm to Table Feast, feeding 120 guests and raising the most funds for the year than any other GALA activity.
After the food was served I was lounging on a set of steps when Josh’s girlfriend Molly tapped me on the shoulder, “Hey, Ben you might wanna come see this.” Josh was addressing the guests: “Now this next award goes to a family that I have known about two years now…” My stomach turned over as I realized he was indeed talking about the volunteering habits of my family. “So this year the GALA Volunteer Family of the year goes to the Cashmans!” I sheepishly stalked up the aisle in between the wooden chairs of the crowd and accepted from a beaming Josh a large, galvanized tin watering can. He smiled, “You earned it.”
The can symbolized perfectly what we were all taking from the experience. An overwhelming feeling of achievement through the happiness of others. An ability to collaborate with strangers to become a part of a system not run by money. A changed definition of success to be indicated by smiles not money. To know that you have the ability to put your personal problems in perspective and do something that might make a difference. To make history by touching lives not your own. And from burning up about the color of my shirt to receiving the watering can from Josh, I felt I’d achieved just that.
Nice work Ben, thank you for your dedication and hard work and good luck!!