Friday, March 20, 2015

My Ah-Ha Moment

     My Alternative Spring Break experience has been so immensely powerful. This week has given all of us something which we will never be able to put into words, and something that will remain a part of us forever. I have had such vastly different experiences each day, and every experience has taught me a new lesson about Detroit, America, service, and myself. The first day I associate with the image of Detroit. I was shocked by the amount of trash, and I will never forget noticing the abandoned homes. I felt like I was a part of an apocalypse. We had breakfast for the first time at a shelter and I am ashamed to admit this, but it was disgusting. I wondered how I was going to eat this all week long, and then it dawned on me that this is what some people eat all life long. Even though I found the food disappointing and horrible, I enjoyed hating it because it put other people's reality in perspective for me. That day we talked with a woman named Ms. Bray at a women's shelter and she spoke with us about the situations that young girls are placed in, and how important it is for all of us to appreciate our parents and our home lives. At this point on the trip, I appreciated her message, but I honestly felt pretty confident that I already embodied this appreciation.
     The next day was extremely frustrating. I was doing tasks that I found unimportant and I felt as though the time I was prepared to give was being wasted. However, during debrief Amy Jones helped me to realize that the small things do matter. Even though I was doing a task that I felt was unhelpful, it was helpful to the person who makes a difference in her job. I may have disagreed, but that's okay, and I need to remember that helping her is a way of helping the homeless. Additionally, I made the connection that our purpose of being here is not to change the world by organizing closets and cleaning kitchens. Our purpose is to show Detroit that they matter. To show Detroit that they have not been forgotten, and that we care about them. Giving Detroit this message can hopefully boost their moral, and continue to remind them of the amazing change taking place. More importantly, by spending time here, we are all showing our communities at home that Detroit is important and that it is essential for us to help members of our nation. LaDonna empowered me to be an advocate of service and to spread the word back at home why we should all lend a hand and get involved.
     The third day was my favorite day. At this point on the trip, I was feeling down and confused as to why. This day was very fun and positive for me. I was able to connect one on one with different people volunteering and staying at the men's shelter, while also painting which was a fun task. I felt good making a physical difference while also making connections with people. On this day, I learned how the little things can be more impacting than I first realized. These people work so hard all day long, that they don't have time to paint the lunch room. It felt great that we were able to come and put the time in when they are unable to.
     On Thursday, I came to realize more about treating homeless people like real humans, because they are. A homeless person is no different from anyone else, and anyone could fall into homelessness. I talked to multiple people at lunch who shared that they became homeless during the recession after they lost their job. Also, a man named Ed talked to us about donations that they are given. Often times, people donate old, tattered clothing with stains. I had this mindset before the trip that a stained shirt is better than no shirt. But Ed put it into perspective to me what it would feel like to wear that stained shirt. What does that do to a person's heart and mind? What will they begin to think of their self-worth? I now see that donations should be quality, because these are quality people. The highlight of the day was meeting a wonderful man named Robert. Robert recently moved into permanent housing and not only shared his story with us, but showed us his room. Robert really touched me because he was so genuinely proud of his accomplishment in attaining permanent housing. This success story gives me hope for so many others who are in a bad place.
     Today was my ah-ha moment day. The morning was fun, I spent time in the kitchen and danced with Caitlin and George. However my ah-ha moment didn't happen until later. In the afternoon the entire group went to an abandoned house and our task was to board it up. My task was to pick up trash outside of the home and to throw it in. The house had been burned and it was left in shambles. I began thinking about someone very important to me who recently abandoned their home and I couldn't help but think about the state of their home. You wonder what brings a person to this point where they need to leave their home behind, and it makes you so sad. It is even sadder to think that the house is then disrespected and neglected by the community. You have to wonder what happened to the people who once lived in the home, and what their life is like now. I became very overcome with sadness. I went behind the house to gather my emotions when I saw my best friend Kaylee. When I saw her I started crying and she put her arms around me, protecting me from the sadness that had taken over. She comforted me for a long time while I just let myself feel the grief. Then Kaylee began telling me to think of Robert. Robert who touched me so much with his kindness and success. She reminded me to think of Robert and that there are other people like Robert who do succeed and get help. Then she said something that I will never forget. Kaylee told me that we are the fight. We are the fight against poverty. This was my ah-ha moment. I finally realized that even though what happened in Detroit and what happens all over the world is horrible, that we are helping to make a change. Even though our small group will not change Detroit or the world in this one week, we are helping the movement to do so. I feel really empowered that I am a part of this movement, and that my contribution goes beyond this week. I will continue to make a difference by advocating for service and for poverty. Later in the evening, one of my most influential role models, Tori Dost said something that contributed to my ah-ha moment. She talked about how today we each picked up one stick and doing that one small action cleared a lawn and made it better. By making a small action toward a big problem, we are picking up one stick that is a part of the nation. There are other Alternative Spring Breaks and other ways to make a small difference, which can create a big one. She made me feel like I really have the power to help make this difference in the world. I was first shaken by the current state of Detroit, but now I feel immense hope for the future, and I am excited to see the positive change to come.

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