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Layer Upon Layer of Grime...

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Layer upon layer of grime stuck to every square inch of my bare skin. I was homeless. On the streets with no where to go; I had nothing. No family, no money, one pair of shorts, one shirt, one pair of socks, and only the shoes on my feet. I was alone.

My senior Christian Service Project involved myself and seven of my classmates immersing ourselves into the life of the homeless in Sacramento, California. The experience began much like that of beginning high school as a freshman. Initially I felt isolated, insignificant, ignored, and invisible. This would change.

The very first morning while waiting in line for breakfast at Loaves and Fishes, a non-profit organization in Sacramento that works with the homeless to get them off the street and on their own two feet, I met an older couple. Their names were Chris and Donna. They explained to me that they were parents, and just how much they couldn’t stand to see teenagers like myself on the streets. It was at this time that I began to feel a sense of community all around me. I watched as the handicapped received help from the healthy, and people saving each other spots in the breakfast line so the other could obtain lunch tickets for them. Basic acts of kindness such as these often go unnoticed in our busy world. Everyone was there to help one another. There were no cliques. There were just people, of all races, denominations, and all ages.

The couple began interrogating me. Why are you here? Where are you from? Where are you sleeping? For every “I don’t know?” they had advice. This advice proved useful over the course of the week; such as where to find a toothbrush, how to get a shower, a fresh pair of socks, deodorant, and other basic necessities.

For the rest of the week they kept a close eye on me. They constantly bombarded me with “How are you?” and “Did you eat this morning?” They were complete and total strangers, yet they took me under their wing as if I was their own child, much like my own parents do.

The kindness that radiated from the hearts of this couple, and many more people I encountered, demonstrated to me that every little action counts. It is in our nature that we help others. Sadly though we forget about the simple aspects of life, and the most basic ways to make others days just that much better. To have made one person breathe easier is to have succeeded. Whether it be done by helping the little old lady across the street, or serving food to the homeless, every action counts. It was St. Ignatius who said, “Love ought to show itself more in deeds than in words.” Every action I take in life will stand out more boldly than any dollar I make.

To have been a part of a community rather than to live solely as an individual is to have lived truly, so long as our actions speak louder than our words. From having been homeless, it is very possible for one to be an individual and still remain interdependent amongst the community. All it takes is action. A simple hello and a smile to the average stranger on the street, to lending a helping hand builds a worldly sense of community. When the day comes that no one has to walk down the street staring at their feet, and they can say, “Hello, how are you?” to one another, we will all have succeeded.

By the time I left to return home, and my first shower of the week stripped the rancid scent of the streets from my body, people like Chris and Donna proved that acceptance will build community. It is so sad but true that there is more community amongst the homeless than I have seen in most of my own high school classrooms. This is because there exist no borders or boundaries between people. Everyone is an equal. Everyone lives, not only for themselves but for each other, because we all serve a greater purpose than ourselves.

It is the community service that I have taken part in that has developed the individual that I have become. I have become smarter, a critical thinker, a leader, and a man for others. Living life with only the bare necessities in the most trying of conditions brought out of me all of who I am. Whether it was finding my way around, writing about my purpose and reason for being there, or helping others; all of my experiences from the week as a whole have shown to me that I can handle most any situation presented to me. On the rugby pitch I am a captain. As a member of the Senior Retreat Team I am a leader. In the classroom I am there to help, as well as to be open to the help that I need.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that, “Children are all foreigners.” Well then in that case I believe that men and women alike are molded into unique individuals by way of experience. College will be a new challenge, a new experience in my life. It is opportunity. Broadening my horizons can only help me in my quest of discovering what purpose I serve outside of myself. I believe that in serving that purpose we discover why we are here to live before we die.





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