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Phillip Hedrick: One Single Smile

A day while serving alongside Project Ruth may not have been a typical summer day for an 18-year-old. Being able to get out of the ordinary and see different cultures was truly an eye-opening experience for me.

Each day this summer, I woke up, ate a little breakfast, and then started my walk to the Ruth School. While at the Ruth School, I would then drive to a village where I worked with children from about 9 a.m. to noon. At the village, we would play games with them, generate craft ideas to make with them, or we would do a life lesson with them. Their smiles or playing with them first thing in the morning just brightened my day, making me feel like I was ready for whatever the rest of the day would throw at me. After we were done with helping out at the village, my group would drive back to the Ruth School, eat lunch, and prepare ourselves for what was to come that day at Summer Club.

Everyday at 2 p.m., children would arrive to the Ruth School ready to learn, play, and love on whomever was there to help them. Summer Club would start with worship time, followed by a Bible lesson or skit. The kids enjoyed watching the skits and seeing the volunteers play out the skits in some of the most dramatic ways that they could.

Once worship time was over, the kids would be split up into three groups, and that’s where I stepped in. Every day I was in charge of the sports activity. I would gather up my first group of kids and look at every single one of them. They would look back at me with a huge smile, awaiting that day’s rec game. We would walk out to the rec field, and then we would start the game. Once the first group was done, another group arrived. As soon as they came through the door that led to the rec field, they would fill up with so much joy because they knew they were going outside. Being able to run around for the next 30 minutes would be the best time of their lives.

When Summer Club concluded at 4 p.m., I typically would feel I was ready to fall into my bed and just sleep until the next morning. However, seeing those kids’ faces with the biggest smiles as they left gave me more energy than I ever knew I had. Realizing that they had the time of their lives in the last two hours and that they were going home happy while holding a craft they had made gave me chills. Seeing the joy that a piece of paper, which was folded in a certain way, or a cup with a string attached to the bottom gave them; then remembering that they have nothing and I have everything, is hard to think about when you are living life with God by your side. When you make a connection with these kids, you just forget what what you have and what they do not.

I am home now, and it’s been week being away from the kids that I love most. I miss them so much that words can not describe. One of the little six-year-old boys said as we were leaving, “I’m not sad, because I know you are coming back.” Yes, I will be back, if it’s one year from today or 15 years from today. Project Ruth and the 50 boys and girls that I had the opportunity to serve this summer will always have a place in my heart. I will never forget those sweet smiles that I was able to see everyday, no matter the weather or the mood anyone was in. One smile can change someone’s world so always smile at everyone you see.

Phillip Hedrick is a student at Liberty University who is serving in Romania as a Summer Venturer. He is also a member of Bonsack Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia.