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?