February 16, 2011
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Eight hours from home with 26 other people, we finally arrived, hands full with our belongings, sleeping bag and pillow, suitcase and Bibles. Not informed on what would come next, our youth minister called us into the dining room of a church basement where the smell of lasagna led the way. Not really taking for granted the meal we had in front of us, we blessed the food and the hands that prepared it and asked for it to help nourish and strengthen our bodies for the work we had planned for the week ahead.

A couple days later we all pack into our white Dodge vans with food and drinks to keep us hydrated and fed for the day like we had done in the past two days. We head toward downtown Memphis, Tennessee again. That morning, Matt, our youth minister asked us all to make an extra sandwich; my thoughts had been that we had a hard day of work ahead of us and Matt didn’t want the extra bread to stale. So I have with me a second sandwich identical to my first. After a few hours and a couple stops, I began thinking about my second peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and my stomach began to grumble.
The vans pull into a parking spot on the curb by a semi-busy road which we get out and cross to end up in a nice green enriched and shaded park right on the Mississippi river. As we gather to listen to what Matt was telling us, we scanned the park, where a few people were scattered; carrying with them a few belongings, looking like they hadn’t showered in a couple days, and searching through trashcans. Just a minute before, we had been putting our trash from the vans into those trashcans, and I knew what they were searching through wasn’t going to give them any mercy.

Tuning back into what Matt had to say, he informs us that we were going to hand to the folks sitting around us our extra sandwich we had made in the morning. Now I had grown up in Miami, Florida where we couldn’t go to the grocery store without seeing somebody begging for money or food in the middle of a major roadway; I had been used to “look straight ahead and don’t give them money because they’ll spend it on some Budweiser and a pack of Camels.” I slowly had begun to realize most of our society had grown up this way. What is it to me that they spend it on some beer and cigarettes?

A couple and my friends and I walk over to two men comfortable sitting on a bench, who at the time were just chatting. We introduced ourselves and filled them in on what we were doing. They politely took the sandwiches off of our hands, and to our delight, were interested in keeping conversation. The men didn’t own a home at all but have lived in the Memphis area for a good few years now. We could see in their eyes and hear in the way they spoke they might possibly know the town better than anyone. Knowing myself, I would never have come up to two homeless strangers and just talk, but I think they have better stories to listen to than anyone else.

I learned that day that we don’t have to judge a person on their looks, what they carry on their backs, what they spend their money on, or anything really. Who says we’re any better than them? What we should be spending our time on is helping each other out because our society is falling to pieces, caught up in a bubble that we forget about the needs of others less fortunate. We shouldn’t ignore somebody when we carry spare change in their pockets we’ll probably spend on a pack of gum anyways. The world can change one sandwich at a time.

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