After ASB NYC, I came away with one major realization: service needs to become a top priority in my life. Working with a number of soup kitchens, food pantries, and shelters in the city, I got to know the volunteers who have made service their entire lives and the people in need of their time.
Even when it doesn’t seem like it, I have so many privileges. I may not have the best of anything or be very wealthy, but I have a family and a lot of support, I have a home and shelter, I am enrolled in college and am receiving a valuable education. Not everyone is as fortunate, not everyone gets these opportunities. Why should I be complaining about my homework, or angry that I can’t buy the pair of new shoes I wanted when there are people who can’t go to school or don’t own shoes?
I realized that I need to take a step back and get perspective; remember that someone always has it worse than me. And instead of getting down on myself and feeling guilty for this, I can do something about it. I may not have money or many objects to donate, but I can give my time, my energy, my care, my passion.
I can make a change and prioritize service in my life. I can, and must, volunteer with and for those who need it, for those that will appreciate and deserve my time and efforts.
I can surround myself with other good people who want to help others.
I can build a community with others that will raise me up more, while also working toward making the world a better place.
I can make a difference, no matter how small.
I will make myself more whole while also filling part of someone else’s life a bit more, even if only for one day; even if I just make them smile for a moment, or guide them through shopping, or fill their empty stomachs, or fold sheets for their shelter.
They may not be homeless and sleeping on the street, but there are many families and people that are just in need of support. They are quavering on that fine line and because everyone is equal, because everyone is human, they deserve to be helped.
I have a responsibility as a fellow human to help, to offer support, to just do something.
And so I leave you with a message I read at Community Kitchen in the Bronx: “Think about others. Think about we before me.”
by Sarah Dwyer
The trip to New York City was focused on creating a healthy environment in every sense of those two words, so we participated in a variety of different activities. For the first four days of the week, we volunteered through Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP) working with issues of hunger and homelessness. Through YSOP we worked with food banks, soup kitchens, shelters and community centers in three out of the five boroughs of NYC. Our service ranged from packing meat to serving the elderly and from folding laundry to working with homeless youth. On Wednesday night we made a dinner at the YSOP headquarters and shared our dinner with young people from a local LGBT shelter. The dinner was a fun and eye-opening experience. Through working with YSOP, our group realized that many factors, such as food, shelter, education and companionship go into creating a healthy environment. On Sunday and Friday we participated in activities more commonly related to the definition of environment. On Sunday, we attended and had a guided tour of a Green Market run by GrowNYC. All of the sellers at the market were local and their products ranged from ostrich eggs to delicious pastries. On Friday, we worked hand and hand with members from GreenApple Corps, doing ecological restoration and park clean-up at Seward Park. We even had some time to explore some of the city’s landmarks such as Time Square, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum and Mayles Cinema in Harlem. Visiting the city’s tourist destinations was an interesting juxtaposition to our exposure to people and places in the city that were in need of help and support.