The Service Trip in the DC
The Service Trip in the DC
The Service Trip in the DC
The Service Trip in the DC
The Service Trip in the DC
The Service Trip in the DC

Gadalla, Ramy

13th Street Park Mission

The church service trip starts as we all sit in the car. My fellow volunteers are complaining about others whom they think are not worthy of serving and are not well prepared. These guys are not acting in love. How can they do such thing?

The kiosk sits in the middle of the green grass in 13th street Park. We are setting the food trays with different kinds of meals. Some volunteers prepared chicken, others salad, and I prepared cookies and pizza that my mom taught me when we used to go and serve in the poor areas in Egypt. The homeless are quickly lining at the kiosk. Some are holding tattered blankets. Others are overweight, which strikes me as surprising since they are poor. But I realize that they live on cheap fast food which contains high fat and cholesterol that can accumulate in their arteries, forming plaque and leading to heart attacks and cardiogenic shocks. The prevalence of disease and poverty strikes me in this population. The most common feature of the group was that they were from different colors, races, and walks of life. Some of those we served were not homeless, but nurses that had just finished their shift in the MedStar Washington hospital nearby and needed to eat.

Service had been to me a source of awe since a young age when I used to serve the impoverished in the Archangel Michael charity mission in Egypt at the age of 13. I used to see how the poorest people had the most gratitude and it was from them that I learned to be thankful for opportunities in life and my family. I came to admire their life and wanting to live like them after I go to college and finish my degree where I can help them with whatever knowledge. In the poor, I see myselfimpoverished like them. When I see the hungry I imagine myself in hunger like them. When I see the nude I imagine myself as depraved and in need like them. With all their affliction I also feel afflicted. In all their trouble I also feel troubled. In their disease, I need to rush and clean off their feet which accumulated abscess and lacked the proper medical attention. When I see their eyes blinded or I see them suffering from heart disease, getting transferred to the Anglo hospital, which offered to take on their recovery process at a little or no expense, I need to be part of their healing process by even as much as sitting beside their bed. If you are helping someone and you are in a really high standard compared to them then you will not be able to connect with them.

The view while serving people shows trees green and sprouting. The flowers are blossoming and there is a spring breeze. The sky is cloudy and the rain about to fall would ruin our campaign.

Some of the volunteers are coming late and I see others condemning them. I am putting myself away from that discussion. How are they doing this? They are not fulfilling the vow of love we had agreed upon together!

“I am very surprised why she came so late?” one of the volunteers says.

“She was supposed to come here earlier, why is she so late,” the other replies

“She is so lazy. She always comes late.”

These guys are such jerks. How can they say that about each other? They should shut up, I say to myself. I recall these angry emotions and thoughts in my mind, I go to get more food from the car, staring in the ground. While I am getting the food I forget the keys in the car. The volunteer gets angry. He says his wife has to come all the way from home to bring the keys.

Now, I return back to kiosk. “Nem, come with me,” I say to one of the younger volunteers, “hold those napkins and I will hold the pizza. You will give the napkins as I give out the pizza” He stares at me and wants to keep playing with his dog. “Come… why did we come here, then?” Nem leaves the dog to his father, and he comes and holds the napkins while still holding a ball in the other hand. As he walks all the napkins fall on the floor. He is always messing up. He is never prepared as I am, I say to myself. I start to feel pompous over Nem. Suddenly, the pizza slips and falls from my hand. I have just wasted a slice of pizza that was supposed to go to someone that was hungry. I realize now that I am as bad as the rest of the volunteers if I am condemning them in my heart as much as they are condemning each other and making mistakes out loud. So I am just going to focus on my job now.

People are receiving our smiles more cheerfully than I anticipated. Simple words are making a difference. The homeless never looked over themselves. If they were to be left in that same place for a long time, they would not take care of themselves. I am amazed of how the effort I woke up early and put in preparing the pizza and cookies that morning are paying off. Not one of them is passing by without taking cookies or pizza. 150 homeless have passed by so far. I realize that their happy faces is what I will remember from that day, not our mistakes. From now on we will come to this place every week to feed the homeless while no one is seeing us except our conscience. That is what I am here to do.

Rain is starting to fall, and we are covering the food with shards of cardboard and plastic bags.

As we go back, the fellow volunteers still argue about the others and what they did wrong. I am not finding it fit to share in their discussion and keep a distance from the conversation, especially after I reflect my own imperfection with anger. At the end, the volunteer in the drivers’ seat asks me, “What do you think of this girl? She was goofing off while we were serving the homeless and does not deserve to be with us!”

I replied: “who of us deserves to feed the homeless? We all make mistakes.” I learned that I cannot just be judging and thinking that I am better than others but rather I have to love them. All what I was thinking is not different from what they were doing. I have received a precocious view in to the life of the poor and have been humbled by their simplicity and gratitude, and I have not been living up to that standard.