Taylor Gough - Tennessee Breaker, May 2018
For the start of my summer I was able to go to Maryville, Tennessee to the Once Upon A Time campsite for a full immersion experience in the outdoors of the Smokey Mountains. At first it was pretty frightening having to check yourself for ticks every ten minutes, using an outhouse all week, and not having cell service to talk to your family. Even though I grew up playing in the woods, it was a lot different not being able to take a break and step back into your house. We depended a lot on each other to make it through the week. We thought it would be one of the longest weeks of our lives, but once we started getting to know one another and doing service for the community we quickly realized that we did not want to leave.
The couple who housed us for the week showed us how important it is to care for our environment. They taught us that the Cherokee people only took what they needed from the land, rather than the surplus and stock pile culture that we have at home. Throughout this trip I had the unique opportunity to not only provide service for the people in Tennessee, but also provide service for nature. We spent a day in the National Forest where the Park Rangers were very enthusiastic to share their work. They helped teach us about invasive species and that by removing them, we can help save the forest. Sometimes, we forget about creatures that are not ourselves. This trip reminded me that all of God's creations matter, and need our help.
This trip opened my eyes to new cultures. We learned about the seven Cherokee tribes, the history behind their culture, and where they are now. Our group also visited the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum where we learned about the history of Sequoyah, the man who created the Cherokee written language. In addition to the Cherokee, culture, we also learned about the culture of Tennessee. One night we went out in the community to listen to their blue grass music. They were excited that we were visiting and very appreciative of the help we completed in the community.
Overall, the trip helped me reconnect with the environment around me, and to build long-lasting connections with my new friends at Alvernia. It is important to take a step back from ourselves and focus on others. The most impactful way to aid others is to help the environment because that impact everyone and everything around us.