My Reflection Shouts Change

January 18, 2011
By Angel Fuentes BRONZE, Phoenix, Arizona
Angel Fuentes BRONZE, Phoenix, Arizona
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

My knees had always ached at about this time. My neck perspired with sweat from the long day and my arms felt like jell-o. A person would think that after three years of doing this I would be used to working in a food bank with a broken water cooler, no fans, and a ton a lifting, but I never could get used to it. This is my journey at the Desert Mission Food Bank.
The Desert Mission Food Bank is located in Phoenix and strives to serve those on need with food, and it’s unique. Most food banks don’t let their customers choose what foods they want, they just put it in a box and hand it over to the customer, but not at the Desert Mission. At this food bank people get to walk through the market like a regular store; for the most part. There are limits on dairy products and meats but other than that the customers can choose as many fruits and vegetables as they want. It was constantly hot in the food bank and every year I promised I wouldn’t go back because the water cooler always broke then leaked on my cash register. There were two registers but I always seemed to be using the one that got leaked on. But for some reason I always returned to the humid sea of crying babies, lone mothers, and hungry men. It is a remarkable place.

Anyway, I was 13, the summer of 2007, when I started volunteering here. I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that I was to report here every Tuesday at 12:30 as cashier; I would never imagine that what I saw, heard, and experienced would change my outlook on life forever.
Most of the volunteers were retired, affluent folks, so it was weird at first because I was younger and from a different part of town. But they were all friendly and watched out for me. The people who gave me the best advice though, were the people who were there by a court order.
One man, who was there for what I’m not sure, name was Mark and he was about 40. He told me about all the mistakes he made; leaving his daughter and such, and how now he was this big loser who didn’t do anything but smoke cigarettes out of boredom. This man’s greatest flaw was that he left his daughter selfishly, but he felt guilty and that’s more than most others can say.
An experience I’ll never forget was during my second year at the food bank. We were changing our procedures so people couldn’t walk in to the food bank whenever they wanted since, unfortunately, people had taken advantage. Now families could only come once a month for diary and meats, and ten times a month for bread and vegetables. When I told a woman about these changes she got very upset. It was like I told her she had terminal cancer and there was nothing I was willing to do to fix it. She was with her young daughter, about six I would guess, and began ranting on about how it was all the little girl’s dad’s fault. Unfortunately, that is a phrase I heard a lot there, “It’s all your dad’s fault.” This is another thing I learned. I don’t, and never really did, have a dad or mom in my life, and quite frankly, I think I am doing quite well for myself. So, by moms blaming the dads for everything was just a way for them to make someone else look bad instead of them. They wanted their helpless children to believe they were the rock stars at the top of the mountain when really they hadn’t even started the race.
My third year I felt like I knew the ropes and was so depended on that I became one of the store manager’s right-hand men. I felt like nothing could get in my way. But did I learn.
That year, my final year in 2008, before I entered my freshman year in high school, I learned much more. I learned about my maturity level, the sacrifices I was willing to make for others, and that Michael Jackson died that June; oh wait, that doesn’t have anything to do with volunteering, but I was at the food bank when I heard about his death.
I had made a good set of friends that remained consistent at the food bank. We all went to different schools, one girl even lived in India, but we always got to see each other during the summer. It was almost perfect. I quickly learned that I understood that when you are at work you have to work, not fool around, but my friends didn’t seem to be growing up. During that year I began to grow distant from them because I was there to help and it seemed like they were there to play.
I also began to realize what I had given up to volunteer there. When people got to lazy around, to the lake, or just hang out, I decided to stay behind because I felt that I had made an everlasting promise to serve those who needed me. Some people I remember seeing every Tuesday and or Thursday, and I felt that it would be weird if I weren’t there. I gave up what could have been my summer of lounging to offer a helping hand.
What I learned most out of the past three summers at the food bank was that I must look within myself and not others to make decisions and I learned wise words from those above me. I learned that a man regretted losing his daughter and that a lot of women blamed their baby’s daddies for their mishaps when they should blame themselves. I learned that to help someone we must sacrifice ourselves to help even just one person. I learned about myself and the character that I have as an individual. I learned that we must “sacrifice one person to assist many.”

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