Serve Love to Everyone!
A familiar quote by Mother Teresa: “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, much greater poverty, than the person who has nothing to eat.”
Breaking down the typical stereotype, loving, and serving the homeless is the mission of Y.E.S. (Youth Equipped to Serve). I am part of the youth group at St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River. Our youth group went on an inner city mission trip to Los Angeles, California with the program Y.E.S. We had many great experiences, but the opportunity that impacted our lives the most was getting to spend time with the homeless and to share our love. What I noticed in those that we encountered was that they wanted someone to talk to, to have people not be afraid of them, and that they were able to see God’s love despite their situations.
For instance, everyone we came across loved striking up conversations. It can be extremely lonely going day by day with no one to talk to. One man I met, Marvin, came right up to my group and asked us about Alaska because he had heard our group was from there. Of course that intrigued him, and he couldn’t stop asking questions and talking about how amazing it would be to fish here. Not once did he pause while speaking because he was so full of joy just from having people eager to listen to him. It is heartbreaking to think that many of the homeless hardly ever have someone to confide in who actually cares.
Consequently, many people tend to not speak to the homeless because they are afraid. On our first full day in Los Angles, we took a walk through Skid Row, which is where the majority of the homeless population is. My first instinct was to be afraid since I had never experienced something like that. It was pouring rain that day and I had a poncho to give to someone I saw on the street. I saw a large group of guys standing against a wall and one of them didn’t have a poncho. To be honest, the way he looked frightened me, but I knew I had to give it to him because he looked miserable. Finally, I got past the barrier of being afraid and gave it to him. Never in my life have I seen a smile that big and genuine. All he could say is God bless you over and over. That man’s smile touched my heart and helped me conquer my fear.
Later, we arrived back to the mission we were touring. Right before we went in, our group noticed an elderly woman trying to jump across a huge puddle that had accumulated from the rain. To our surprise, she went for it, but didn’t succeed in staying dry. The first thing she said when she neared us was that God’s true holy water was rain because it is untouched by man. We were all surprised by what she had said. We then invited her in to get warm. Her name was Myrtle, and she was one of the best human beings I have ever met. Even though she was homeless, all she could talk about was God and all the love she had for Him. I was utterly shocked that she wasn’t angry or complaining at all. We were all so glad God brought her to us because it made us realize what a great life we have and that the small things we complain about are really only small things.
To conclude, there were many amazing learning experiences that our group shared. We learned to share our love, to not be afraid, and that God works in extraordinary ways. God opened our eyes on this mission trip.
The next time you see a homeless person, don’t just look the other direction, go up and talk to them. Ask them their name. Treat everyone you come across as if they are Jesus standing on the side of the street. Talking to the homeless can sometimes fill an emptiness that is even greater than hunger. So spread love everywhere you go!
Sydney Medders is a junior at Chugiak High School and a member of the St. John Youth Orthodox Church in Eagle River.