A Volunteer's Transformation

I am from a very small town. Actually it is a village in the farming region of Michigan. Growing up I was faced with the stereotypical homeless depiction that most people in the United States are presented with. I had rarely even seen a destitute person in real life, let alone interacted with one. As you can imagine, based upon my background I was on edge when asked to be a part of this program.

Just like many others are, I was afraid of the unknown and I was flooded with uncertainty. This was rooted in not only my ignorance but in my own stage fright as well. Thoughts rushed to my brain such as, “What will they look or act like?” and, “Why would they want to listen to what some college kid had to say?” All of this was amplified the first time I walked down the pathway towards the building we taught in. However, as I got the first few lessons under my belt I became more comfortable with standing in front of strangers and speaking. After a while I began to think of this collection of people as more than just a unit. I noticed myself wondering about each of their unique situations as I peered into the audience and that is when my transformation began.

Over the next few Mondays I learned about the individuals that lived at Brookside Family Life Center. They became my friends and I looked forward to coming to see them as opposed to dreading teaching. Yet, there was a part of me that was anxious about returning each time because I had to see them leave the nest and venture out on their own, not knowing if I would ever see them again. This is when I realized I was developing caring and understanding for their special circumstances which made me more able to serve them. I took what I had found out and applied it to lessons which were directed towards their distinct needs and desires. Along with the growth and maturation of the program I also saw an increase in my empathy for others.

As much as it was our mission to empower these women to get back in the game of life, I feel they have done more to change me that I have in serving them. I could not have asked for a better, more life altering opportunity than what was presented to me at Brookside Family Life Center. I just hope that I can give back to one person a fraction of what has been dealt to me. If I were to go back and describe what I thought this experience would have been, my response would be simple. Most likely I’d have told you that I was going to go in and try to teach some homeless women how to better manage their money. However, through reflection I can say that this set of encounters has stemmed a personal evolution. It was a modification that involved a handful of women who were in a rough patch of life, and these amazing females single-handedly changed my life for the better.

With love, Shawnna