Bank of Opportunity

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“All right people, let’s get packing!” announced our leader as my group prepared themselves for the task ahead of us.

The food came crawling down the assembly lines and it was our duty to make sure each crate was filled to the brim with the nutritional necessities for a healthy lifestyle. I began volunteering here at Phoenix’s St. Mary’s Food Bank for quite some time now, but I will always remember the first time I was given the chance to volunteer. I was probably about 12 years old and I was my first time arriving at such a place. My mentor and I had driven up to gloomy looking building, the aroma venting from the building was that of a million combined foods. I was in a scholarship program, and we always had an annual visit to the food bank. “Okay people, you are here because you want to help make a difference in our society” preached the instructor. We were shown into a room where we were given a short orientation about the food bank’s purpose and establishment. “Any questions people? No, then let’s get started!” Our instructor had delivered vague instruction, but I managed to get the gist of what we were to accomplish. I was put in charge of packing the dry foods such as cereals, breads, and pastas. “I’m not sure I can keep up!” I shrieked as a drip of sweat began sliding past my chin. I did not expect this to be difficult, I felt as if we were in boot camp and they had us perform vigorous training. Though, it might have been my history of doing small amounts of actual labor or lack thereof. Besides my muscles tensing up from dashing swiftly back and forth with food, it was an enjoyable experience. “Great work people, you’ve managed to meet your quotas for the day. I have to say I’m impressed with the hard work you all put in.” reported our instructor. Done. We were finally done for the day.

Ever since, I’ve been more lenient on helping out the hungry or poor. Anytime a homeless person manages to capture my attention with the regular phrase “Can you spare some change?” I never give it a second thought. My mind is stuck on the concept “They need it more than I do”. However, there was an instance I was almost persuaded in the other direction. My mother, who is always kind enough to offer a helping hand, caught the attention of a homeless person possessing a sign that read, “Hungry, Food Please” Of course, my mother went up to the gentleman with an apple in hand she was saving for lunch. She gave the man her apple hoping it would satisfy his hunger for the moment. What came next was an eye opener for sure. The homeless man gave the apple a roll of his eyes and proceeded to throw it away. That tragic event lead my mom to believe the homeless were just people who wanted money to spend on alcohol and drugs. To do the things that ended them up were they were now. She never did this act of kindness again. My mother addressed me to not hand out money to those on the streets. Her point was made clear when she snapped “Those people are too lazy to help themselves, they want others to feel sorry for them so that they’ll do it for them!” My meager mind was beginning to believe her; most people had opportunities to help them get back on their feet. Why they never took those opportunities is a mystery to me. Maybe they do not want to receive help because it makes them feel helpless.

Besides, I was sure that all homeless people could not possibly think that way. Volunteering refreshed my memory and had me pondering about the other organizations out there willing to help those down on their luck. And it’s not just food banks, there are shelters, soup kitchens, and clothing drives that all share one goal. To stop this nonsense from occurring. With this in mind, I believe we can solve this issue if only people would get their mind out of the gutters and throw away the thought that, “All homeless people are lazy and terrible people” because this is not always the case. The kind of life they endure every, single day is like survival in the jungle. Most of us have everything we need, yet we desire more, including me. In recent times, however, I have dedicated myself to helping out those with less. I have joined my school’s Interact Club, which is a club dedicated to volunteer work, and have became a regular volunteer. The thrill of knowing you are making a difference, even if it’s small, is enough to even make the biggest changes.

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