A Benevolent Stranger

February 10, 2012
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The sky was grey, and the air was filled with the smell of wet cement. As we hopped off bus 27, our faces collided with a hundreds of tiny raindrops. We ran across the street with hoodies over our heads and came to be at the bottom of a small flight of stairs. When we reached the top, my best friend Jordan turned to me and said, “Are you ready?” I took a deep breath and replied, “Let’s go,” as I swung open the door with the words St. Mary’s Food Bank written on them.

We walked into a gloomy, empty room. There was one desk with one lady typing fast as lightning who didn’t seem to notice our entrance. I looked around the room and caught the look in my best friend’s eye. It said, “Oh my goodness. What have we gotten ourselves into?” The feeling was mutual. I timidly approached the lady at the desk and with one more nudge from Jordan I uttered, “Excuse me ma’am. But um, we were wondering if we could do some volunteer work?” She looked at my awkward smile and shoved a clipboard in my face and said, “Sign in please.” After writing both our names down, she gave us bright orange ID badges, pointed to a door and said, “Just go in there when you’re ready.”

As we were about to enter into the unknown, we paused. I looked at her, and she looked at me. She had an apprehensive look on her face, and I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Here it goes.” Little did we know what lay ahead.

We were instantly hit with a massive wave of chaos! It looked like the school cafeteria during second lunch. There were long lines of people waiting to be served, and people rushing around trying to do seven things at once. My feet suddenly seemed glued to the floor, and my mouth stitched shut. Then a crazed man, who I later came to know as Rodney, stopped in front of me and said, “Are you here to volunteer?” I nodded my head and was swiftly whisked away to put bags of different food into dozens of shopping carts to be brought to the herd of people waiting in line.

As the day went on, I started to get the hang of how things worked at St. Mary’s Food Bank. My job was to do one of two things: push carts or fill carts. I was mainly running around unloading brown paper bags with food piled high to top into stranger’s cars for most of the day. Let me tell you, I saw every color of the rainbow that day. There were people standing in line with suits and a Bluetooth jammed in the ear, and then there were people with hand-me-down shirts, shoes, and pants with holes at the knees. Not all were warm and inviting as well. There was one man who stood out from the crowd. He was a short, older gentleman with a wild look in his eyes. Being the naïve person that I am, I didn’t think much of him. I had my hands on the basket ready to head out the double doors when I felt a hand come over my shoulder. To my surprise, it was Ronnie. He told me he would handle this one and to move on to the next person. I cocked my head and shifted my eyebrows to express my confusion; however, I listened and continued on. When he returned, he once again laid his rough, heavy hand on my shoulder and said, “I wasn’t comfortable sending you out there with that guy. He was a creep, and I didn’t want anything happening to you.” I smirked and said, “Oh, okay.” In reality, this stunned me to the fullest extent.

I couldn’t help but think to myself this guy doesn’t even know me, but he still cares about my safety? I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the concept of a stranger actually caring. It wasn’t until later that evening when I laid in the comfort of my bed staring at the white ceiling that I could actually ponder the thought.

Then it hit me like a brick. I came to the realization that there are still good people out there. There are people who care, who want to help. Before, I really didn’t think there were people like that until I was exposed to the kind-heartedness of an individual.

From that one experience, I learned that people are people, no matter what. We all have feelings; we all want to feel like someone out there cares. Even though some may be as different as water and fire, no two people share the same life. But everyone has a story. And it’s up to us to choose whether or not we want to listen.

I can honestly say with confidence that I will never forget nor regret my time spent at St. Mary’s that day. It changed how I look at people and the world. It has instilled in me hope for a better future.

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