My life has been shaped by important people and experiences I have had over the course of my short twenty years. This past summer in Washington, DC, I was fortunate enough to have such an experience and form relationships that have touched me in ways I could have never imagined. When I was packing for the nation’s capitol in early June from my Dayton, Ohio hometown, I was nervous to spend eight weeks in a big city, where I would be interning at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, taking classes at Georgetown University, and living with peers from different colleges across the United States. However, I came back from DC a different person, full of energy, inspired and open to new avenues in life. The love I experienced was riveting and took me by surprise. I feel blessed to even have encountered such an emotion from total strangers who I am now honored to call my friends.
My greatest experience with love in DC came to me one morning on a second-hand bicycle at St. Matthew’s. Every Monday at the Cathedral my supervisor, Teresa, a group of volunteers, and I would serve breakfast to the homeless men and women in the Northwest section of the city. At first, I was unsure of how to act around the guests, not wanting them to perceive me as spoiled or condescending. I concentrated on keeping a genuine smile on my face and left the rest up to God. I was immediately surprised by the warm smiles and unadulterated interest they showed in me. My favorite guest was a thin, African American man in his late fifties named Gerrit who rode his bike everywhere he went. Each week, he would invite me to the Monday night movie that was showed on the national mall at 9pm called “Screen on the Green”. I found myself looking forward to our conversations and would worry if he didn’t show up on time for breakfast. I became accustomed to his farewell “I love you” and his easy grin. He, along with Monday regulars, Bill, Myra, Raymond, Patrick, and others took me in and gave me a home by showing me love without question. I was moved by their deep faith and effortless ability to love despite their troubling, unfortunate conditions. They taught me to love more readily and sincerely, as well as inspired me to seek a deeper relationship with God.
Through my time in DC this summer, I have come to believe that love is one of the most powerful human experiences. It not only forms relationships and enables us to grow, but it defines who we are and what we are capable of doing. If it were not for the love of others, I would not have the capacity to change and become the person I am today. I believe that other people will come into my life and allow me to experience that love once more, and only hope that I can do the same for others.
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