One Sleepy Sunday

February 10, 2012
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One sleepy Sunday at the end September, I woke up from my warm cozy bed with a purpose. Winter was right around the corner, and my mother and I decided to get into the holiday spirit. At 8:30 in the morning we arrived at St. Vincent de Pauls, a Phoenix shelter, wondering how out volunteer experience would turn out. Little did we know that after that day, St. Vincent de Pauls would be a second home for us for quite some time.
When we walked into the downtown building, I felt like I had been dropped into a chaotic play with an unknown role. Other volunteers had already started on getting everything ready for the people to appear; they were bustling about preparing food and setting all the tables.
My mother and I took charge of the situation as best we could and took our places on stage. We only had a small part; we sliced bagels so tomorrow the people would have a nice nutritious breakfast. Yet, that was only are warm up; next we became part of the food serving line. Our new part was to try to serve food quickly and cheerfully to everyone that was in our never ending line. Whenever I smiled at them and said “Enjoy!” I could see the light in their hearts just glow as they said “God bless you” and took their plate full of food.
Relating to these grateful people came easier than I thought it would in quite a simple way. Time flew by as we were serving the hundreds of smiling people, and soon it was already 12:30. My stomach growled fiercely and demanded some of the delicious food right in front of me. Why was I so hungry?
A moment later I realized I had not eaten anything at all for breakfast; which was a terrible burden that these people were forced to deal with every day. Then I grasped the reality of the situation. I had the comfort of choosing to not eat breakfast, where as they had no other choice. I felt a pit in my stomach replace the growls that erupted just moments earlier.
Suddenly, an urge to talk to one of them came over me. I wanted, no I needed to know how they overcame this daily struggle and still managed to have grins larger than the Cheshire cat’s on their worn faces. I slowly scuttled up to a woman at the nearest table to me. She was wearing a purple long sleeve shirt that gave me a sense of familiarity since purple is my favorite color. Once I got closer to her I noticed under her black, slightly oily bangs she had beautiful warm green eyes.
Approaching her, I awkwardly smiled and said hello, hoping she would not be bothered by me talking to her. Thankfully, she said “Hi, come sit down. It’s lovely that we all have people like you in our lives.” I was astonished; she made me feel as if I was a part of something that truly helped change their lives, if only by a little bit.

Soon we transferred from our small talk to important topics. She even asked me what my struggles were. At first I did know what to say, everything I could think of seemed pathetic compared to the struggles she had overcome. Plus, I did not want to preach to her my problems, yet I’m glad I opened up to her and told her them.

When I told her how I could not help but give up on most situations once they got too tough, she told me to always have faith and hope; not only in God, but in myself too. I told her I was too unsure of myself, because there were countless of questions I did not know the answers to. Wisely, she replied that “The best answers to life’s greatest questions we have to find out on our own, no one is just simply going to hand them to you.”
At this moment I asked myself how could such a wonderful, lovely, intelligent woman end up homeless? Why her and not me? Yet I just didn’t have it in me to ask her these questions, they seemed unanswerable.
Pondering these thoughts my mother’s shouts of my name broke through. Sorrowfully, I told her I had to go, and that I was extremely thankful for her advice.
Her wise words planted a vivid memory in my head I shall never forget. Looking back to that day, I wish everyone could experience a similar situation. I wish we could all feel the pleasure and great joy of serving her and all the other people. Looking back, I hope more and more volunteers help out, so lovely people like her don’t stay in the cycle of being homeless. I believe that one day we won’t need amazing organizations like St. Vincent de Pauls, because we will have overcome homelessness. I believe that true happiness comes from making others happy, and that one day everyone will believe this too.

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