This I Believe

Melanie - Jericho/Burlington, Vermont
Entered on November 9, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

At the innocent age of 13, my life took its most important turn. For two years members of my church youth group and I fundraised by selling lemonade and sub sandwiches in order to be able to travel to Albany, New York on a mission trip. There, we sorted through clothing, organized volunteer offices, cooked food, and cleaned out buildings for the poor and homeless, for two and a half days. Little did I know what a change this trip would bestow upon me.

At the age of 15, I decided to go on a second mission trip, this time to New York City. I was sent to an old church where other volunteers and I made and packed over 300 bag lunches into baskets and set to the streets to distribute to the needy. In one alleyway, they all lined up to receive their lunch, but they cared for the handicapped and elderly first. Some helped them along, and some got them food and brought it to where they were sleeping. They didn’t act like vultures over the food; they were calm, thankful, and considerate, completely opposite of what I expected.

When I was 17, and a senior in high school, I went on my last mission trip. We went back to New York City, and helped the Bowery Mission. There, we cooked, cleaned, ate, and hung out with 132 rehabilitating homeless people, known as program members. Leroy was a program member who had nothing to give, he was thankful for a bed, a shower, food, and work to do. One afternoon he walked up to my youth group and presented us with a teddy bear. It was awkward to accept his gift, I felt like I was taking candy from a baby. He had nothing, yet when he found a treasure, he gave it to us, who had many things. I will always remember this moment because of the great degree of kindness shown by a stranger.

Without knowing the person before hand, or what had happened to them to make them homeless, I perceived them as a normal adult. I was comfortable standing side by side with them. I looked up to them, and learned from them. There was no barrier between us, they were just like me and I just like them. When I found out some of the reasons for their homelessness, it shocked me that the person I knew now could have done such terrible things, but it never changed my view of them.

My first trip sparked something inside of me that made me want to go on more mission trips. This initial spark led to my new understanding and changed perspective of the world. From these experiences, I believe that all humans are innately good, no matter their past, education, ethnicity, gender or economic class. I wish that the rest of the world could experience what I have, and come to the same conclusions as I have, maybe things would be a little different.