Give a lot, Take a little

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There is something about helping others that has always given me a natural high. From teaching a child how to do a math problem, to serving food at the local mission, I just find that I get a whole lot more out of giving than taking.

With my move to Nashville there were a few main things on my “to do” list. Important things like find a job, a place to live and the closest grocery store. After I got settled, I started to research volunteer opportunities in the area. I’ve always enjoyed working with the homeless; knowing that I was helping to provide them with a hot meal and a chance to tell their stories to someone who genuinely wanted to listen.

After my first week or so at Gigi’s Cupcakes, I realized that every morning, the Nashville Rescue Mission came to pick up leftovers from the night before. Naturally, that was the first place that came to mind when I began researching volunteering in the area – and I’m so happy it did.

Last night, a few coworkers and I volunteered to work a dinner shift at the rescue mission for men. There are two separate mission locations; one for men and one for women and children. It’s unclear to me if this is for obvious gender reasons, or because there are just too many homeless victims in the city to encompass them all at one campus. After serving the shift last night, I’m afraid it just may be the latter of the two.

I worked with preparing the trays to then pass on to those serving the line, so my job included tallying just how many trays we went through in a night. The end result? 502. In a matter of two and half hours, we served a hot dinner to 502 homeless men, not to mention the same numbers (or more) happening three blocks away at the women’s shelter.

Rewarding, humbling, heartbreaking; they’re all words that come to mind when I think about my experience last night. It never gets any easier to see fellow members of the human race in situations that are almost impossible to fight their way out of. While I’m so sad to see the weather-worn faces of those who just so easily became homeless as it was for you to get coffee this morning, it makes my heart happy more than anything to know that just for a few hours I can help to make them feel special.

These individuals have no person home-base, no where to go at the end of long days; long days for them just trail into the next. This can de-humanize someone and make them feel they aren’t deserving of anything better.

At the Nashville Rescue Mission, this sense of deserving is restored. The kitchen is open 24 hours a day, meaning those who live there never have to worry about going hungry. The building includes housing for those who are a part of the missions’ program and – because it’s not a government run facility – it is all driven by Christian faith and services every night that residents must attend. The mission gives them a chance to get back on their feet, a chance to fill their stomachs and minds with good food and great messages.

Everyone has a story and just like a really good book, it can change with the turn of a page. We never what will happen tonight, tomorrow or three years from now, but we should never take what we have for granted. There is always someone, somewhere, willing to trade places in a heartbeat. It’s worth realizing what you have, thanking those who helped you get there, saying you love people enough for them to always remember and giving when you feel like you’re lacking something.

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