The trip I took, was a requirement little did I know it would effect my life profoundly. I attend a Catholic high school where service hours is a yearly requirement and achieving the goal of 20 hours in my junior year seemed effortless. When the deadline of the Christian Service Project was approaching my religion teacher informed me that my service hours were not complete, which meant that I had better find a way to complete them or my grade would pay the price.
As I scrambled to get my hours together a friend asked me, Deja are you going on the Skid Row trip? I laughed and said, No why are you? In talking to her I learned that not only did you have fun but you earned six service hours for three hours of work. Wait, did you say fun? That’s the first thing that crossed my mind. How could you have fun standing in the hot sun and passing out paper lunches? The need to finish my hours was apparent but it was my eagerness to prove that my friend’s definition of fun was severely twisted that inspired me to go on the trip.
I had no idea that the trip would change my life. I woke up that morning expecting the worse, sure I’d be with my friends but passing out food, in the hot sun was not something I looked toward, and trying to make the best of it seemed completely and utterly impossible. The first half of the morning was the hard work, we had a six part assembly line where two hundred teenagers packed and boxed about three thousand paper bags lunches.
Singing songs, laughing and talking was how we made the work go by at a speedy rate, and getting those heavy boxes on the bus seem as simple as tying our shoes. Only forty of us actually went to Skid Row and when we got on the bus we were assigned different corners of the street, a teacher mediator and a number of boxes to distribute. Luckily three of my close friends were in my group, so we had fun discussing who was going to do what, and what songs we were going to sing on the way there and the way back.
When we got to Skid Row my eyes were opened to the widespread poverty in one part of the famed Los Angeles County. How could this be, where did all these people come from, why wasn’t something being done about this, all these and many more questions filled my mind. We were surrounded by graffiti ridden streets where the smell of liquor was saturated in the air, the use of drugs was common, and sleeping on sidewalks was everywhere.
On our assigned corner my group passed out lunches for two hours to various nationalities and ages of people whose lives had been altered around the fact that they had no place to stay. Talking with the people and hearing their heartfelt thanks and seeing the smiles is what caused me to realize what an act of ‘service’ I had become apart of. Children who came and received bags from us were extremely grateful and there eyes opened wide when they saw the chips, cookies, and other goodies before them, this act alone made me smile.
I paused to realize how fortunate I was, I thought about my clothes, home, shoes, the food I ate, and the private education I was privileged to. I realized that there were teenagers my age who had less than me and were grateful just to see another day. I was happy to be out on that street corner, serving those who needed it the most I was happy to make a difference.
The highlight of the day was a patrol car pulling up to the sidewalk and a police officer thanking us for what we were voluntarily doing, he said ‘We need more youth like this today.’ This took the service trip that was a requirement to something that will stay in my heart forever. This trip embodies the unexpected life lessons learned when we do something, and go somewhere, and in doing this we change the lives of those who have less than we do. The countless smiles, the harsh reality of poverty, the undying realization that I change the world around me and a grateful heart is what I gained that day on the street corner, and is something I will never forget.
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