This past Friday my son and I volunteered together for Global Youth Service Day. We gave 2 hours of our day to help others in need and it felt good for both of us. This wasn't our first time volunteering together but it was just as rewarding. Sometimes I can't help but feel selfish when I volunteer because I always feel good after and that can be a little confusing when your feeding homeless families.
We worked in the kitchen at the Sulzbacher Center. It is one of the only shelters in Jacksonville, Florida that will let families stay together during their time in the shelter. They are also the only shelter that provides 3 meals a day. I knew that we would see some children but I was truly blown away by the amount that were actually there. From a 6 week old baby boy to a teenage girl. Some mothers were there alone with their children, some had husbands or boyfriends. Some of the children were eating breakfast before they headed off to school just like any other child on a Friday morning except these kids were up eating at 6am. They were sitting with homeless men and women, some that looked unstable mentally or recovering from whatever addiction they are trying to kick. As a mom that scared me. I couldn't imagine being in that situation with my children and worrying about their safety while trying to keep a "normal" life for them. My heart ached for these kids and parents. You could see the people who were there because they were really trying to get back on their feet and you could see the ones that were there just because they had no other place and could use this shelter to their advantage. I hope I don't sound mean but it was evident.
My son worked on one side of the kitchen helping to make the plates of hot food and hand them out. I was on the opposite side serving drinks. The sugar packets were very popular! Some of the people just amazed me with their positive attitude and smiles. There were a few I wanted to reach over and hug. I get way too emotional. When my son was done he came over to where I was at and helped me. His side was mostly older men so he was surprised to see families and kids just like him eating in the family area where I was. He asked me "can we do this again? I feel good helping others." Mission accomplished. I wanted him to see that not everyone has what he does and that we should all do what we can to help each other. It doesn't have to be giving money or buying someone something. It's as simple as a smile. Being empathetic to someones situation, showing compassion so someone who needs it, and just passing on kindness. Those are all free but may mean the world to someone.
I remember when I was little my dad would take me to the pound every weekend. I couldn't understand why he would want to go because we never adopted an animal on these visits. I understand now that it was his compassion for these dogs and cats that drove him there every weekend just to put a hand through the fence and pet them or look in their eyes and say kind words. If he did see a dog that was up for euthanization he would do what he could to lead people who were there looking to adopt towards this particular dog. During my teenage years my dad adopted Bandit from the pound! He took this dog everywhere and even called him my brother!
My dad taught me many things and kindness and compassion were two of them.
One of my favorite quotes is "Be the change you want to see in the world" Mahatma Gandhi.
I truly believe this.