Helping the Homeless

There’s nothing better than the feeling you get when you know that you have helped someone a great big deal. That’s what I felt when I helped out at the Midnight Mission, a program devoted to meeting the needs of hundreds of homeless people in downtown Los Angeles.

The Midnight Mission, located in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles, is the oldest continuously operating human services organization in the Los Angeles area. They have their own building and facilities, all designed to serve and support the poverty-stricken men, women, and children of the greater Los Angeles. In 1914, the doors to the Midnight Mission were first opened to the homeless men of Skid Row. Meals were served once a day, at midnight, after church services were given to these men. But things have changed since the early times. Instead of serving homeless people one meal at midnight, the Midnight Mission now provides three meals a day, clothing and personal hygiene items, showers, shaves, haircuts, non perishable food supplies, TB and HIV testing, special events, and most important of all, a safe night’s sleep. All these services are given to anyone who walks through their doors, any time and any day, seven days a week. Participants in the volunteer program are also given free meals when they take breaks from their work. When my Boy Scout troop discovered that we can help as volunteers at the Midnight Mission, we decided to lend a helping hand for a day.

As volunteers, my troop members and I gathered and organized donations (personal hygiene items) given to the Midnight Mission by people around the community. After placing them in plastic bags, we handed these personal hygiene items to the homeless on their way out after a hearty meal. We were instructed to put smiles on our faces and greet them with a cordial “hello”. Personally, I didn’t really think I’d enjoy spending my time handing toiletries to a bunch of homeless people for a couple of hours. I didn’t even feel that much sympathy for homeless people at the time. But when seeing the genuine looks of appreciation on the faces of these people, I truly realized that they didn’t have the common necessities of life. They didn’t have what other people took for granted. They were underprivileged and extremely unlucky. I also came to understand that many people, provided with more than the bare minimum required to survive, are spoiled. Soon, I felt more than happy to assist these people who were stuck in an unfair struggle to survive.

While participating in the Midnight Mission, I took one long look at both myself and the plight of these homeless people. I take two showers a day, have my own room, and don’t worry about my health and medical care. To me, meals and clean clothes are a given. And here I was, helping homeless people who don’t have shelter or a way to stay clean; homeless people who are happy with half a cheeseburger and a tattered pair of pants. Wow, I thought, I never knew what I had.

Spending a mere 2 to 3 hours taught me to appreciate what I have when I have it. It is very simple to help dozens of people in need; the effort is nothing compared to the great experience of helping someone in desperate need.

And every time you volunteer, you learn something new. ;)
Visit http://www.midnightmission.org/ if you are interested





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