When you think of a homeless person, you think of them standing on a street corner begging for money. Some people give them the little bit of cash or change they have, or they put their heads down and keep walking. When you give them the little bit of spare change you have in your hand, it makes you feel like you have changed the world.
On December 20, 2017, my parents decided to volunteer at this brand new homeless shelter in Xenia on Christmas Eve into the early morning on Christmas. At the time it had only been open for about 3 days. They invited me to volunteer with them (only being 15 at the time). I kindly turned down the offer. I mean, let’s be real, what 15-year-old wants to volunteer 11pm-8am on Christmas eve/morning? A few days before my parents were supposed to volunteer, we stopped by to drop something off for one of the staff members. I walked in, seeing about 5 gentleman playing cards and watching tv. The atmosphere was filled with love. It was a happy place, which isn’t the word you would typically use to describe a homeless shelter. After we left, I told my mom I would help her volunteer. After all, I thought it would give me the warm fuzzy feeling of getting to say that I spent my Christmas morning volunteering.
My parents and I got there late at night and hung out. I didn’t make it very far into the night and I actually ended up falling asleep on the floor in the hallway. I took a couple hour nap and woke up about 5 to start making breakfast for about 8 guests. This was giving me the warm and fuzzy feeling I wanted, I was flipping pancakes and wearing an ugly Christmas dress. I was on top of the world. I sat down and ate breakfast with a couple of the guests, and we got to talking about everything. They knew about all the types of things I did. They watched sports, they knew about the city, and even liked the same food as me. Then it clicked. They were just like me and they are people too. They faced the same problems and struggles that everyone else does and sometimes more. Just because they are in a homeless shelter doesn’t mean they aren’t a person and deserve to be treated any less.
After December 25, 2017, I was hooked. I wanted to go back right away, so I did. To this day I volunteer about once a week at Bridges of Hope. Our family has adopted the tradition of volunteering every Christmas morning at Bridges of Hope. To this day I still am friends with the guests that were there the first time I volunteered. Working those eight hours on Christmas eve/morning was the start of a beautiful thing and changed my life forever.