Section: Becoming an Active Citizen Serving the Greater Good: Service Project
Service has always been one of the most important aspects of my life. From the time I was little, I have always wanted to go out and help people. I know that sounds like a very generic thing to say, but its true. All throughout my high school career I dedicated my life to service and I was super excited to come to college to continue that passion of mine. When I found out that there was a service category to the PDP, I was eager to discover what other service projects there were on and around campus.
For this service project I volunteered two nights at a rotating homeless shelter through the Isabella County Restoration House. For the week I volunteered the shelter was located at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mt. Pleasant, MI. My shifts were on Monday, November 7th from 10:30pm to 3am and Thursday, November 10th from 2:30am to 6am. I decided to take these shifts because I wanted to know more about how the night life is like of the people who stay in these shelters. Most people have volunteered in soup kitchens and such to feed the homeless, but seldom do they stay long enough to find out what happens after hours. Not everything I learned at this homeless shelter was what I expected, but I loved the experience all the same. It was fulfilling in ways I never would have imagined.
It was the middle of the night when I arrived at the shelter; all the guests were sleeping, and I was left chatting with some of the older volunteers. As they sat there talking, I was able to learn more about them an their lifesytles. All three of these people had gone to a number of different churches before they landed here at Immanuel. As the guests went on a journey to make a life for themselves, the volunteers went on a similar journey throuout their lives to find the faith that fulfilled them. It taught me that we are really not all that different from those around us; we go through different things in life, but we all want very similar things.
Speaking with these volunteers, surprisingly, taught me from this experience than I thought possible. Near the middle of the night, they began to talk about religion. My first thought was “oh gosh, here we go.” As you all know this is usually a very sensitive topic, and strong opinions can come to light. This conversation, however, could not have gone any differently. The woman in the group (she was maybe in her 60’s) turned to the other volunteers and said (and this is pretty close to a direct quote), “What really disappoints me is how people my age judge those of the younger generation, and their life choices.”There are some people in this world who stereotype Christians for being unaccepting and cynical towards the younger generation, yet she was exactly the opposite. I could tell by the way that she spoke that she wanted everyone to live a fulfilling life and do what makes them happy, no matter their decisions. Many of the residents of the homeless shelter were young, and none of us knew how they had come to be there. Her attitude towards the youth she had never even met made me realize why she was here at two in the morning on a Tuesday. She wanted to make sure these people were warm and happy now, and give them a chance to create a fulfilling life for themselves and their families in the future. It was truly great to see.
Volunteering at this homeless shelter taught me a lot about service. We don’t volunteer our time for ourselves, but for others. Most people volunteer to feel good about themselves; to feel like they made a difference. While thats all fine and dandy, helping others really isn’t about us at all. It’s about the people we are helping. If their condition has improved even slightly because of something that we have done, and if they are happier because of it, then thats all we can ask for.
We may not always be sure about everything in life (where we came from, where we are, or where we are going) but one thing that is constant is love, and we must make sure that everyone is able to feel that love.