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Unspoken Rewards This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Ever since my firstexperience at Degagé, a soup kitchen downtown, I've had a passion forreaching out to others.

I've watched Degagé grow from a tiny soupkitchen to one with a coffeehouse and discount store. When I volunteered therethe first time with a friend, I listened to a middle-aged homeless man whosegirlfriend was living in California. They were building a house, he said, but hewas living here in Grand Rapids temporarily to see the city. His girlfriend, hetold me, would soon return and bring him to their new house.

The directorof the kitchen explained that many of the homeless tell stories of their dreamsand desires. Naively, I had marveled at what this homeless man had said. But helived in poverty and most likely had no home at all. This experience helped meappreciate that I have a wonderful life. My friend and I left that day satisfied,having strewn Thanksgiving decorations throughout the tiny building and donatedtowering boxes of toothbrushes and toothpaste we had solicited from Grand Rapids'dentists.

After Degagé, I looked a little closer at the needs of mycommunity. For the past several summers, I've volunteered a few weeks as a daycamp counselor for a community outreach camp my church hosts. There I have seenmany children faced with heartbreaking trials: angry parents, lowself-confidence, lost hope and poverty.

On the first day of camp I searchfor the special ones who need to be touched. Then, I spend the week making surethat they not only fit in, but also feel comfortable talking about theirproblems. There is no more satisfying feeling than when, on the last day, thekids really want to stay at camp. The week may seem never-ending, leaving me withan aching body, but the intense feeling of the outreach's mission keeps mereturning every summer.

In addition, I am a Children and Worship leaderat my church. I love working with children, and this gives me experience for mystudy of elementary education. Children are such wonderful, promising members ofour society. They are not only our future, but they hold such simple andimportant views that any adult benefits when looking at the world through theireyes.

If you give a child your time, they surely will repay you a hundredtimes. Teaching them and giving them a chance to talk satisfies my passion tohelp others. Often, I seem rushed for time and get discouraged when preparationadds another item to my to-do list. Then I think about all the happy and thankfulchildren's faces, and I quickly remember the importance of communityservice.

Many of my friends question my time spent volunteering, and Itell them I enjoy the experience and find it fun. Often, I wonder if theyunderstand, but I assure them that if they went with me to a soup kitchen, theywould be moved, too, and come to know the satisfaction I receive from doingcommunity service. To all those considering volunteering, I assure you that youwill feel no regret.




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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