The Human Spirit This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
   What am I doing here? What's my purpose? Where's my place in life? I asked myself these questions as I strolled into a small, autumn-brown building called "Father Bill's Place," which is located in the heart of Quincy, a city near Boston. I didn't know what to expect. I could feel my heart beating faster than usual. The butterflies in my stomach grew restless. My hands twitched as the tension inside me became unbearable. My nervous responses made me quite uneasy, but I felt reassured that five of my close friends had come along with me.

"Hi, my name is Bill. Please come in," an old man warmly greeted us. He showed us around and told us our duties. His congeniality and his grandfatherly smile made us feel comfortable. Before we became familiar with the shelter, however, there was one thing we noticed, the incredible warmth of love and affection that permeated the cold, damp air.

As Bill, the friendly director, was showing us around, we began to realize what community and caring were all about. He explained how most things were donated and how resourceful the volunteers must be to run this place. He explained how the poverty-stricken, neglected, abused people of the area could come here and find a clean, loving place to fulfill their basic human needs.

The more we looked around, the less we believed in our preconceived notion that all homeless shelters were rat-infested and slum-like. The beds were neatly arranged with clean, white sheets. The walls were a splendid light blue, which resembled the sky on a radiant spring day. As we looked around some more, we unanimously agreed that the bathrooms were so clean that a person could see his or her reflection on the gleaming, white tiles.

Finally it was our turn. The director put us in charge of running the kitchen for lunch hour. Our heads nodded and our smiles stretched so wide that we could feel the happiness being thrust forward into every nook and cranny of the kitchen area. Enthralled with the idea of helping others, we followed directions eagerly. We mixed the salad, cooked the chicken, boiled the rice, and served that dessert. There were different serving stations resembling the set-up of our school's cafeteria. For a few minutes all of us were panicked and confused, but we managed to get everything done perfectly.

Around twelve o'clock people of all shapes, sizes, and colors started pouring in. As the first few came in, I tried to read their faces. One man, whom I particularly recall, made me ponder how our society treats the poor and needy. He was brawny and seemed so tall that he could cast a shadow long enough to shade a giraffe. He had a fair complexion but possessed a deep and mysterious grin. His sunken, tired eyes, I assumed, came from the stresses endured in the streets of despair, which are, unfortunately, the cruel streets of America. The moats and valleys on his long face indicated he was aging. His long, dirty-blond hair was turning white around the edges. He wore a rugged plaid shirt and thick blue denim pants torn in many places. As I paid closer attention to him, I placed myself in the life of this innocent, homeless man. I couldn't help but notice the frustration that overcame him.

"I have a family to feed with two kids. I just got laid off at the Trucking Express. I don't know what to do," the man sadly whispered to his friend. "Will I ever be able to get out of poverty? Why isn't the government helping out?" Later on I recalled him politely saying to me, "Would like some rice, son. Thanks so much for your efforts." Seeing that the man had so much to worry about, the mere fact that he took the time to appreciate me felt very rewarding.

As I read more faces and served more food, I attempted to understand how these people felt. I wondered: How did they become destitute and homeless? What I wanted to know even more was how our rich, powerful American society could have allowed such poverty to pervade our streets. I was angered. Out of this anger toward our society came my feeling of compassion for these people.

After the food was served, we volunteers sat together and watched the food being consumed. Without even looking at people's faces, we could feel their happiness through the mysterious human spirit. I can't describe the feeling that we felt. The feeling of plain satisfaction would be an understatement. I realized my purpose in life. Beneath the underlying barriers of race, gender, culture, and wealth, there is one thing that always persists: We are all human. Some of us are strong and some us are weak, but we must remember our human spirit. Let's take care of one another. 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.






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback