So often, it is easy to assume that everyone has adequate supplies to survive and to do so in a hygienic and healthy manner when a person looks at their own circumstances and does not place themselves in a situation to see how others live. In other words, it is easy to close our eyes to the troubles in the world if we do not place ourselves in that setting. This is why volunteering is so important. Once I was given the opportunity to see the struggles that people face, I have been able to form a compassion and sense of empathy that I had never known before. I find myself being more grateful for the basic things in life and trying to be less wasteful of these basic resources. Also, I find myself being more giving and quick to share what I have whenever I can. I also gained a new respect for those who work diligently to make certain that these needs are met for others and consider the people that I worked with to be true heroes and role models in a society that so frequently turns away from this task. This all came from volunteering at the local food pantry and seeing the appreciation in the eyes of those who came in for help.
Prior to volunteering, I was aware that there were services available for those in need, but I did not understand just how much work went into providing these services nor did I have any idea exactly what was provided. When people first showed up to the food pantry, they had to fill out a form. Some people seemed to be used to this process while others seemed to feel shameful for being in need. The volunteers would quickly put their mind at ease by making small talk and treating them respectfully. I thought this was one of the most important parts of the job because these people are often overlooked and feel inferior in society. It was not really busy during the time that I was there, but the other volunteers gave me a lot of information about how they try to help these people feel important and I found that to be a great way for them to treat the customers at the food pantry.
Once the person filled out the form, we looked it over to see how many people were in the family and what age groups were in need of the assistance. We also looked to see if anyone in the home had any food allergies or any particular foods that they simply did not eat. We looked for these indicators to make sure that the food that was provided would be useful and not go to waste as others could use the food that the customer would not or could not eat. It is very important to make sure that the food is put to good use because there are people who donate the food and would not want it to be wasted. We would then take the information gathered as a guide to pack up the food for the customer. We made sure that they received food from all of the food groups and packaged it carefully so that they could carry it with them. The food was all non-perishable items that could be used immediately or stored at their home.
The information about the family was not only used to make sure that plenty of food was given, but it was also used to determine what basic daily supplies that the family might need. We would take this information to package items such as shampoo, soap, and toothpaste. I found this to be interesting because I never thought about people not having access to these items, but I could only imagine how not having them would make someone feel inferior and could make them very unhealthy. Also, people who are out of work would have a difficult time finding employment if they were not clean and could not present themselves in a hygienic manner. This added help of useful supplies allows the customers to not only be fed, but to also be able to truly take care of themselves. This was an absolutely amazing concept and really made me think about how lucky I am in my daily life. Never before had I thought about how I would feel if I could not use deodorant or brush my teeth. This really made me appreciate my life and look at others with a lot more understanding than I had before.
Although this was a short volunteer program, it definitely changed my life and perspective on the world. It is not okay for us to continue to turn our backs on the struggles of others simply because we are comfortable in our own lives. It is not acceptable for people to be hungry or to feel inferior simply because they are down on their luck. Also, it is definitely not acceptable for people to continue to treat others as if they are inferior when a kind word can fix this feeling. I look forward to getting more involved in volunteering because, not only was I able to help, I gained a personal feeling of compassion for others that I believe everyone should have. I know that it is often hard to find the time to volunteer, but only a few short hours can change so many lives for the better.