Inspirational

Giving Back

homeless-and-addiction
Photo Courtesy of: http://blog.palmpartners.com/

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35 ESV

If there’s one characteristic I’m convinced I was born with it is my passion and love for people.  I’m always willing to dive head first into a new friendship, and I’ve never been afraid to simply walk up to someone and introduce myself in a crowd of unknown faces. The human race is selfish, prideful, and revengeful. Our world needs more love, more understanding, more acceptance. My personality leaves me wide open to hurt, betrayal and exploitation, but for me, these are slight consequences compared to what love can overcome. There’s also an important word called forgiveness, but I’ll get into that a bit later.

My love for people has taken shape in the form of public interest work, namely, giving back. It was my desire to help people that pushed me through law school, and it is a huge part of who I am as a person. You can read more about these feelings here. I truly believe it is my calling so to speak. God has given me this undeniable compassion for others that is impossible to ignore. I realized this love for people at a very young age, and I’ll never forget my first experience volunteering at a soup kitchen with my babysitter on Thanksgiving one year. My parents were divorced at this point, and my mom was a single mom who worked full-time and was finishing up her career in the military. Because of this my brother and I spent a lot of time with one babysitter in particular, and one day she brought us with her to a soup kitchen. I can’t remember exactly how old I was or why she brought us there, but it ignited something in my heart that had always been there.  For the first time I was exposed to the realities of life outside of my bubble as a young girl. I knew that my mom struggled  but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the way she handled herself. But this was a new kind of exposure that I had not really seen before: homelessness. These were people who had hit rock bottom and lost everything. The reason(s) why they fell so far down the rabbit hole was of no concern to me: these people needed others to survive day-to-day. I don’t remember a lot of particulars from this experience, but I do remember speaking with a homeless woman about her situation, and I remember feeling scared because one man wanted more soup than we could give him and would not take no for an answer. As a whole, this was one of the best experiences of my life.

Currently, I volunteer at the Circuit Court assisting pro se petitioners through the guardianship process and most of the clientele that approach the Help Desk are poverty-stricken and so grateful for any kind of help that I can give them. I’ve listened to absolutely heart-wrenching stories, and I’ve even witnessed people who could not see well, write well, or read well. Since I know I won’t be able to volunteer at the Help Desk once I land a full-time job I started looking into different homeless shelters around Chicago that I could volunteer at a few times a month on a weekend day. I have wanted to find a shelter to volunteer at for awhile, and I finally sat down to put this goal into motion. This led me to Lincoln Park Community Shelter. My orientation is tomorrow, and I’m excited to be a part of someone’s recovery, to make someone smile or laugh, or to just be there for someone when no else wanted to.  This shelter was formed in 1985 between a partnership of local churches, and their mission is to help women and men get back on their feet by offering a range of programs such as interim housing and career placement.

Giving back can take the shape of so many things outside of physically giving someone money. I also entertained the idea of putting together care kits to hand out to any homeless I may see during my commute from point A to point B. These are simple freezer bags filled with necessities like Kleenex, granola bars, bottled water, toothbrushes and toothpaste,etc. All of these items can be picked up during a grocery store visit and kept in a bag or purse ready for distribution. You can find out more information about these care kits here. I think this is such a great alternative to handing out money or volunteering at a shelter if your schedule just doesn’t allow it. It takes virtually no effort to pick up the items, and they’re handy when you want to give them out. I’ve even seen care packs with socks, mittens and hats for winter. I just can’t believe that able-bodied human beings cannot find some way to give back. There are literately hundreds of ways to help: big and small. Count your blessings, and remember that one day you might need help.

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One thought on “Giving Back

  1. Jen, your new page is amazing. You rock.

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