Spring break. A whole week of being able to turn my brain off. Seven consecutive days where I could finally relax. This is something that I personally look forward to for the entire school year- and I have ever since kindergarden. This time around, I am proud and extremely thankful that I get to say that I have never been so mentally, physically, and emotionally engaged for an entire week of my life. Spring break this year is something that I am never going to be able to duplicate. Getting the chance to participate in such a meaningful mission and meeting so many compassionate people has changed my life.
This week was all about the mission of combating hunger, food insecurity, and homelessness in an area where it is of great importance- Chicago. I was able to get a more clear and concise vision of how these issues need to be addressed on a larger scale, and how I can make a difference. I need to be the change that I want to see in the world. I need to take the first step to inspire others to help. I need to be the one to help others redefine their definitions of what it is to be in poverty. I need to take the step and I need to make sure it is large enough so that others can follow along with me.
A group of fifteen MSU students set out to see Chicago, maybe meet some new people, try and help a little and make a difference. What happened was much more; this same group of fifteen people became a family and challenged each other to redefine how you look at poverty. We encouraged and rallied around each other. We questioned and pushed the boundaries. After every service, we were able to come together to process and understand the full weight of what they had just done. We were doing so much more than serving, packaging, organizing food- we were empowering, understanding, and connecting with people who desperately needed it. This group of people helped bring me to the realization that I had been so naive and in the dark about the issue. Hunger is real for millions in this country. Many don’t know where they will be able to get their next meal. People fall on hard times and it is not up to me to judge them. It is up to me to look to myself and see how I can lend them a hand to be able to stand tall again.
It is easy to see someone on the street and blame them for their place there. It is easy to look at someone who is in need of help and think that they first need to help themselves. This trip has taught me that what I need to do is to not question why they are there, but how I can help to make sure that they don’t stay there. How can I make a difference for that person?
- Can I start a conversation with them and show a genuine interest?
- Can I give them some leftovers from a restaurant meal I just bought?
- Can I give them a couple of dollars that I intended to spend on a latte?
These things are so minute but it is the smallest step in the process of change. I don’t know what events lead this person to this place in their life, but I can be the small step in the chain of events that puts it back on track. I can empower. I can encourage. I can understand.
It is so much more than just handing out money or a hot meal, it is reminding everyone that this is still a person. Asking for help is not something to be ashamed of or frowned upon, it is something that should be encouraged. If we cannot be there for each other during the worst times, then what is the point? We need to get down and dirty and pull these people from the trenches of hard times so that we can revel in their successes with them.
I come back from Chicago with fifteen new, wonderful, caring, genuine, compassionate friends. I come back from Chicago with a new perspective and a new purpose. I come back from Chicago with a new understanding and a desire to help others challenge their perceptions of hunger, poverty, and homelessness in America.