At around 8am we slowly gathered in the Eustis parking lot, carrying huge boxes of food that we were meant to distribute into our little luggage bags before departure. Despite the gloomy weather and grogginess, we were all excited that all the preparation from the past few months was finally going to pay off. After a few struggles buying tickets and getting lost, we finally arrived in New York, drunk with fatigue, hungry, but still pumped for the week! That night, we sat around a huge table over a Salvadorian dinner and began building friendships as we shared our most embarrassing Colby moments!
Over the course of the week, we helped to serve meals in a huge basement at St Francis Xavier Church, bussed tables at Part of the Solution (POTS), packed lunches for four-hundred old people at the Meals on Wheels Program, and restocked shelves at Westside Campaign Against Hunger. On Monday, the rain and a little snow got the better of us because we had planned to go to Central Park and all the museums we had ever heard of were closed.
On Tuesday, we woke up to the best day of our ASB experience! After a relaxing morning in the park, we headed to POTS in the Bronx. POTS is a multifaceted organization that not only serves food, hot meals as well as groceries, to the homeless and low income people, but also provides services such as dental care, legal services, and job searches to help people get back on their feet. However, our work in the afternoon was only with helping out with the distribution of hot meals. As a group, we were assigned different jobs. Some of us were in the kitchen preparing plates and washing dishes while others were out in the dining area serving food and cleaning tables. We were all impressed with the style and efficiency of the POTS. The hot meal distribution was set up more like a restaurant than a food kitchen, which was more welcoming and dignifying for everyone involved. After our shift at POTS, we headed over to The Highline, which is an old railroad track that was converted into a Park that looks over the city. On our way home from the park, we got stuck in a Subway station due to an accident that had occurred earlier in the day. The delay was great because we got to listen and sing along to “My Girl” with talented musicians at the station.
Overall, the ASB experience was overwhelmingly enriching! At the end of each day, we had edifying reflections and discussions about the work we were doing and what it means to us. We spoke of the circumstances that lead people to such situations and how we all could contribute to alleviating these problems. We often felt frustrated as we wanted to do more than we could, but as we learnt from POTS, “If you can’t do great things, do small things in great ways!” The gratitude of the people we worked with was incredible; the words “thank you” and “God bless you” were frequently heard, and they never lost their meaning or gravity. Simply a smile and a willingness to partake in conversation allowed us to make connections with and learn about others. Some people would call us over just to ask us how we were today, and to thank us. None of us could fully understand the lives that these individuals lived, but through hearing their stories, we were reminded of how often we forget the importance of the little things, how we are quick to assume or judge someone without knowing his or her story, how seeing the content on people’s faces makes the work more than worth it!