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One at a Time This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     It was just another Saturday morning. The brisk San Francisco air wrapped around a homeless mother and child as lights gradually flicked on in the city’s skyline. Fog tiptoed down Ellis Street as the mother slowly rose. She kissed her son on the cheek, grabbed her garbage bag, tucked a note under his arm, and walked down the litter-strewn sidewalk.

Soon her son woke. His mother had left him with no more than a garbage bag and his moist sleeping bag. Swiftly, he opened the letter, and tears began to stream down his face.

I saw this as I walked toward Glide Memorial, where every Saturday morning I volunteer to serve breakfast for the past year.

As I approached the building, I saw the church steeple against the backdrop of dirty parking lots, meeting places for gangs. Inside the warm building, I descended to the kitchen where I was given the task of handing out breakfast tickets. Slipping on a pair of thin gloves to protect my hands from the frosty wind, I followed the twisting stairs to the lobby.

A few people wearing brown beanies and faded Gap sweatshirts leaned against the graffiti-covered walls, waiting for food. In the next 10 minutes, the line grew and snaked down Market Street. I placed tickets in people’s fingers as damp eyes stared into my face.

Then the boy appeared in the line. I put a ticket into his trembling hands. His eyes were swollen from tears; they almost resembled the breakfast apples downstairs. The next Saturday I looked for him. Late in the morning, I saw him in line. He wore the same clothes and had the same glum face. When I gently handed him his meal, he stumbled over words to thank me, barely able to get them out.

As I left the building at two, I saw the boy again. Curled up in his sleeping bag, resting his head on the wall, he looked at me, then at the ground. The next weekend I strained to find his face as I collected tickets. He wasn’t in the line. Later, when I left, I saw his sleeping bag but I couldn’t find him.

In some way he inspired me. He showed me that I could effect change, although I was just a seventh-grader. He proved that we all can make a difference in the lives of others. To some he is just another face in the food line, but to me he is proof that volunteering changes lives, one at a time.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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