Congratulations to my niece on her LDS mission call to Pennsylvania! Kinda cool to think I'll have family sort of close to my neck of the woods. I'm proud of her for serving, for daring to throw her hat into the ring and going wherever she's told to go and serve the Lord for the next 18 months. At her own expense, no less, and suspending all other education and career plans while she's away. She's the third kid on her family to go.
We all benefit from serving others, but I find it especially neat when a teenager does it. It's easy to look at the kids slumped over their XBox controllers and overlook what a powerful contribution they can make in the world. They harbour an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm, and when it's harnessed and directed toward the good, they can accomplish things we adults cannot. Their innate vigour and zeal can carry them far, they don't recognize limits or restraints - or at least aren't cowed by them - and watching them expand into adulthood is a fascinating thing.
The high schools here expect students to put in forty hours of community service as a requirement of graduation (my son turned in 168, though I'm sure he's done more than that). Turning teenagers' focus outward to others and away from themselves is a beneficial exercise (one we adults should do too), and I hope it instills in them the desire to be helpful and to contribute to their communities the rest of their lives. We need them.