Sadly enough, this is my last post for one of the most inspiring weeks I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Everyone that went on this trip has inspired me to become a person in which strives to be as inspirational and kind as each and every one of them. Tonight at our farewell dinner, everyone brought so much passion and commitment. It was so amazing watching everyone pitch their future commitments. Whether it was something as small as a bracelet or as life changing as a plan of action or getting involved immediately with organizations that you are passionate about.
By, going to St. Petersburg and seeing all of these individuals who have had these really tough lives whether it be placed upon them for some reason or another but they always seem to find a way to find something to be happy about. And it’s the simple things in life like that. It’s just inspiring to remember the little things. Because its easy to get upset or angry about something that you don’t have or that you wanted and didn’t get. But when you take a step back and look at all these people they don’t have nearly as much as we do and sometimes its just easier to push away the thought that people aren’t nearly as fortunate as we are. Like I have a bed to go home and sleep in, a roof over my head. And there are some days when I complain about having to clean my room because it is such a mess because of all of the things that I have. Whereas some people don’t even have a room to sleep in. and its really sad to me because I take that for granted. I don’t mean to.. but I do. And I just there was a way that I could give back somehow because they’ve inspired me to remember the little things in my everyday life. To smile. Like this year I feel is going to be an AMAZING year. This year has started off where I have met some of the most kind and intelligent people that I have ever met. And I look forward to getting to know each and everyone of them, more than I already do. They’ve inspired me to become this person I’ve always wanted to be. To live my dreams. And go out and be a global active citizen. And I honestly can’t thank them enough for changing who I am and my life. And I know that sounds cliche but you guys are awesome. Every single person that I had met on this trip brought something into my life that I might not of had another time. And I just got back from Australia and I hadn’t met nearly anyone in the new class and I feel honored to be able to call each and everyone of you my friend. And I cannot wait for this year to begin.
Today was our final day in St. Petersburg. We left early in the morning to head back to Rollins. It was a bitter-sweet feeling leaving, for there was still so much work to be done. But, hopefully we will be able to come back in March when Nina’s home is completed!
After a pit-stop at Cracker Barrel for breakfast we headed back to Rollins. Once we got back, we unloaded the bus and had our lunch break. After an hour break we piled back into the JUMP bus to head to the Coalition for the Homeless in downtown Orlando. Although I have volunteered at the Coalition numerous times before today, there was something about today that just made me realize how big this issue actually is. Homelessness is such problem throughout America. I looked at the Coalition and all of the guests staying there completely different from when I had volunteered so many times before. I would like to think that the reason I had this different mindset going in to our jewelry making session was because of the time that we had spent with the amazing individuals in St. Pete.
Our jewelry making session was a whirlwind! So many women and children all in one tiny room, but the energy and happiness emanating from all of these individuals got me thinking about how much I still take for granted. I was lucky enough to work with a more reserved woman named Evelyn who seemed hesitant at first but the more I sat next to her and helped her make a bracelet for her the more she opened up. Even though she did not talk to me most of the time I was making her bracelet, when I was clasping it onto her wrist at the end she said “Thank you so much.. It looks like I bought it the store.” At first I was taken aback because the whole time I was working with her making the bracelet she just gave instructions to me. She seemed almost embarrassed to be sitting with me, but to know that what I had done for her made her that happy, it just reminded me of how much I take for granted every single day.. Whether that be a pair of earrings or a simple bracelet. Wish solidified the idea I had been toying with all day for my final project.
“Although the world is full of suffering it’s also full of the overcoming of it” -Helen Keller
The bus ride back to Rollins
Its day three and its the last and final day on the site. Its sort of a bittersweet day because we all know that we will be going home tomorrow and I know that we all wish that we could of stayed longer in order to help more with the house. When we arrived on site at 8:15am the whole group got right back into the swing of things and picked up the same positions they had mastered the day before. So, we got the rest of the roof framework up fairly quickly. We worked like a well oiled machine. By 2:30 we had completed the entire roof and put on the front porch. It was such an accomplishment, we all were so proud of ourselves we treated ourselves to a dip in the pool, fully clothed. It was awesome. Not only did we get to finish the roof and sign our names on the wall of the house but we also got to have dinner with NIna, the homeowner, in which she could not stop thanking us for all of our hard work. She was almost disappointed because she never had the opportunity to work with us. Hopefully, one day we will be able to come back and visit to see the final product of the house in which we “raised the roof” literally and physically. I feel blessed to have been able to work with all of these people and learn from them.
“The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.” – Arnold Palmer
Day two and it’s our first day on the site! Our group was up at the crack of dawn so that we could be at the site at 8am. Once we got to the site we found out that there was a miscommunication between the company who was bringing the lumber and Habitat for Humanity on the delivery time of the wood. So Charlie, the Site Lead, told us to come back in about two hours when the lumber would be at the site. With that set back we continued on our journey back to the open road. We headed down the highway and ending up at Morgan Park in Clearwater. Even with the minor setback of not being able to start right on time I feel that it brought us closer together as a group because we bonded over dead oyster toadfish and a riveting game of ninja.
After about an hour and a half of collecting seashells and playing games on the beach we headed back to the site to get down to business. Once back at the site we immediately got instructions and began working. At first we were a little unorganized because no one really had a specific job. But, after about an hour we finally got into the groove of things and let me tell you this teamwork gets things DONE. We had the guys up on the side of the walls nailing the trusses and the girls doing all the heavy lifting 😉 The woman that we were building the house for stopped by and some of us got to speak with her. I was one of the lucky few to have the honor of speaking to her and learning that she was planning on surprising her children with this house! I thought that was just so awesome to be able to provide a house for your kids that is in a safe neighborhood with a yard for them to play in. She was really an inspiration to us all.
Once we had finished on site we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the panel that was later that evening. After we were showered and back to smelling like clean human beings we headed out to St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church to meet the Celebrate Outreach panel. We went to this panel where we had the opportunity to listen to the stories of people who had experienced homelessness at some point in their life. It was such an honor to listen to their stories and be able to go out to dinner with these amazing individuals. Something that really stuck with me was something that G.W. said and that was “What kind of world do YOU want to live in? No one can change the world but us.” That really stuck with me because it reminded me that be the kind of person that you would want to be friends with and do the things that you wish to see in the world. Even if it is a simple hello to someone on the street whether they be homeless or not, it could change their entire day.
Today mark the start of my five day journey to St. Petersburg, Florida. I started the day off by meeting this group of strangers for the first time since I had returned from Australia. I was a little nervous to meet everyone because they had already met a few times before I had even ventured back from the land down under. As it turns out everyone in the group is super nice and really funny.
We started our “in-class discussion” about hunger and homelessness by reiterating some of the important parts of the book that we had read over the break. It was really interesting to listen to all of the different subjects that seemed to stick with people more. We also talked about what homelessness meant to us and what kind of citizens there are in the world and what we believe we are. Those kind of questions are really hard for me because I would like to think that I am an active citizen in my community; but, listening to everyone’s stories about what they find important or what they do in their community, really started me thinking about the kind of person I think I am and about the kind of person I would like to be.
After some thought provoking discussion we moved on to some more fun icebreakers where we all opened up a little bit more and got to know each other a little better. Once finished with the fun icebreakers we moved on to an activity called “Crossing the Line” in which Meredith made a statement and if that statement applied to you, you would walk across the room and stand there letting everyone know things about you that you might not exactly share with people you had just met. It was very hard at some points to cross the room because it left you vulnerable to judgement by others. Even though it was hard to take that first step, the moment someone takes a step with you it is not so hard to cross that room because you don’t feel alone. Taking a step with someone not only let’s you know you are not alone, it gives you strength.
After the humbling experience of “Crossing the Line” and learning more about the group while bonding with our differences as well as our similarities. We gathered our belongings and headed out to the cars to make the two and a half hour drive down to St. Petersburg. I got to sit in the “special seat” in the JUMP bus. I would like to think of it as First Mate’s chair. While being first mate I initiated a riveting game of sweet and sour (or peaches and prunes as Meredith thought it was called). Sweet and sour is a FANTASTIC game in which while stopped at a stop light you wave at the car next to you in attempt to get the people in the car next to you to wave (making them sweet) or ignore you or glance away as quickly as possible (making them sour). It is a really great game in which I plan on continuing to play the rest of this trip.
Once we got to St. Petersburg we stopped at Publix to buy groceries for the next two days. We were given $50 to spend on whatever we wanted for the category in which we were assigned. My group was assigned dessert and lunch for the next day. I’m not going to lie, my group struggled to stay under our budget. I cannot even imagine what it is like to have only $50 for the whole week or maybe two weeks. Especially if you have young children because it can be really hard to buy food items that are needed rather than wanted. Being reminded of the fact that some people don’t even have $50 to spend on groceries was a tough reminder of how blessed I actually am.
So, as I reflect on today’s activities I look forward to making a difference in someone’s life even if it means just putting a roof over their head.
Till next time. Over and out.