He Opened My Eyes This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   As I climbed into the van with eight other campers from Massachusetts, I had no idea that this would be one of the greatest experiences of my life. We were going to Virginia to participate in a camp called Harvest of Hope, which addresses hunger in our world. We would be working on a project called gleaning, a system dating back to biblical times when farmers would leave a specific amount of their crop untouched so that the poor could come and harvest.

For five days, we labored in the corn fields in our jeans and t-shirts. The heat was intense and we had to stop periodically for water breaks. But, all the hard work was worth it - by the end of the week we had picked a total of 26,000 pounds of fresh produce.

One of the eye-opening moments of our trip was when we had the opportunity to work in a soup kitchen in downtown Richmond. They had received a portion of the produce we had picked. When we arrived, the director assigned each a specific task. I cleaned off the tables after each person ate. At first, this job frightened me. Although I had worked at soup kitchens in Boston, my jobs were always in the kitchen, I had never had direct contact with the homeless. But I saw that the people were friendly and often smiled or said hello. One man began a conversation and thanked me for my work. He told me that the community was trying to close this soup kitchen because people didn't like to see men like him walking the streets. He looked right at me and said, "What do you think of that?" I was surprised and caught off guard. I began to think of my own experiences. I had often seen the homeless laying on the sidewalk or park bench. Yet, I had never stopped or said anything to them. Instead, I had quickly walked by, trying not to stare. I realized I was like those people who were trying to close the soup kitchen. We were afraid. We were afraid of those dirty faces, ripped clothes, and bags of cans, afraid of those who are different.

That man, with his simple question, had opened my eyes to show me who I truly was. I had volunteered at soup kitchens, donated clothes to shelters, and collected food for pantries. But I had never taken the time to get personally involved with those I was trying to help.

I never had the chance to tell that man how his question had affected me. All I managed to say was, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." When the director asked me if the man was bothering me, I told him, "No, he just opened my eyes!" fl


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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