“Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” ~Edwin Hubbel Chapin
Toward the end of last semester, I wrote about my experience volunteering with my service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, at The Friendship House’s Saturday Morning Sanctuary. This experience really made me think about community service and why it is important to help those in need. I felt like a changed person afterward. This past Saturday, I was able to volunteer at Saturday Morning Sanctuary once more, and those feelings were strengthened from the experience.
I entered the same church with my group, wondering if I would see the man I talked to last time, Peter, again. Part of me did not want him to be there; I was hoping that over the winter his situation improved and that he did not need to come to the sanctuary any longer. The other part of me, however, wanted to see him once more. I told him that I would come back, and I wanted to keep that promise.
As we began to hand out cups, sugar, and hot chocolate packets, I noticed a man walking over who looked very familiar. I wasn’t sure why at first, but then I realized who it was – Peter. His hair was shorter than the last time I saw him, but other than that he looked the same. We introduced ourselves and he told me that I looked familiar. I reminded him of the time I came last semester, and he remembered in an instant who I was and what we had talked about! I ended up sitting with him for a little to catch up. We talked about politics, traveling, our families, anything that we could think of! He was the same kind, intelligent person who I had met before.
Later on, I noticed a man sitting in the corner of the room carving what looked like the face of a lion into a long wooden walking stick. Bill, the man in charge of the sanctuary, asked the carving man, Marshall, to show us his other pieces, and he ran out of the room only to come pack with two large bags filled with more walking sticks. He pulled them out one by one, showing us the intricate carvings that he had made into the wood; each had its own story. He used techniques, like burning the wood, to shade the sticks, and he planned on eventually using paint to color them and personalize them for potential clients. He wasn’t doing it for money, though; he was doing it because he loved it. It was a way for him to escape for a little bit and do something that made him happy. And, boy, was he good at it! They were beautiful! I wanted to buy one right then and there, but, alas, I am a broke college kid.
After hearing Marshall’s spiel, we went back to handing out cups and sugar. I noticed that each person who came up to us was so kind and friendly. They all wanted to have conversations with us, even if they were only a few sentences long. The experience really reinforced what I had learned last time – that the stigmas behind homelessness simply aren’t true. Not having a stable living situation does not make you any less of a human; it just makes you more vulnerable. That is why it was so important that we volunteered there; it gave these people a chance to focus on something other than their lifestyle for a few hours and have meaningful, friendly conversations with another person.
I like to think that some day homelessness will no longer be a problem in our society, but I may be too optimistic. In the meantime, I can continue to volunteer my time to these people and do my best to get them to where they want to be in life. I know that what I did may not seem like much, but even the smallest action can make a huge difference in someone’s life.