Posted by Hannah on 01.11.2010Share

One day when I was working at Café 458 (a restaurant in Atlanta for homeless men and women), I stopped by one of the tables I was serving and asked the guys there if they needed anything else. I think I poured them some extra tea or water. While I was walking away, I heard the men at the table talking about a basketball game that my dad and I had watched the night before. I wanted to snap back around and yell, "Dude, I know, that shot was fantastic!"

But then I had this incredible realization: These people are just like me. They watch the same games at the same time. They cheer and boo just like I do. For too long I had been grouping them in "the homeless" category and not even thinking about their personalities, their likes and their dislikes. If the man in the grey sweatshirt and I both enjoyed watching basketball, what else did we have in common?

This was probably one of the most important realizations I had during this whole experience -- it really changed the way I view community service. Before that moment, I was serving because I wanted to help "the homeless." Now I was serving to help Henry, Mick, John, and hopefully more people I would learn the names of. This made my experience more personal and made me want to work at Café 458 more often. Now, it was person-to-person instead of person-to-group.

How about you? Do you see people as handicapped or blind or old or homeless? Or do you see them as individuals?

The best example I have of seeing people as individuals was when we, as a family, delivered Meals on Wheels to elderly and disabled shut-ins. We knew all their names and we developed a rapport with many of them. Some talked about their families, or upcoming and past sporting events in which we were all interested. All these things made our weekly visits all the more interesting and fulfilling. I still miss the people we got to know well, and they hold a special place in my heart. Getting to know the people you serve is a great way to personalize your service, and to make it all the more worthwhile. Anne-Marie in Wisconsin
Posted by Anne-Marie at 3:41pm on 01.25.2010