This I Believe

Brittney - Colusa, California
Entered on May 6, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I learned a lot the day I volunteered at the Impact store in my home town. I didn’t think there would be much business. The town consists of around 5, 000 people; therefore the homeless population is almost nonexistent. The impact store wasn’t just for the homeless, but the needy as well.

The concrete building didn’t look so inviting, and the aroma coming off the endless racks of used clothes made me wish I didn’t have to breathe. The first item I noticed was a pink onesie labeled 0-3 months. I tried to picture the baby girl who might have once worn it. It was at that moment I realized all the items had stories and people behind the history of them. A history that was lost the moment it was left in front the store for donation. I don’t know why it bothered me so much it was, after all, just stuff.

I stood behind the glass counter spotted with smears and fingerprints. An older woman, about 50 years old came up to the counter. She could have been younger and a hard life might have forced age on her skin. She gave me a toothless smile and smacked her wrinkled lips, asking if she could get a donated box of food. Before she could get the food, she had to fill out income papers. I asked her if she needed anything else, and as loud as could be she asked me what the date was. I had to recover from the shock her loud voice gave me. I proceeded to tell her. Without a hint of embarrassment she asked if I could write the date for her because she didn’t know how. Later, while helping her load the box of canned goods and easy to cook foods onto the back of her blue three wheel bike, I tried to image where she would be going home to. As I watched her pedal away at a pitiful speed down the ally way, I laughed at the thought of her being able to get food because of something as simple as me writing the date for her.

I continued to think about that woman the rest of the day, and how many things I take for granted, like being able to write the date. The owner had later asked me if I have ever shopped at an impact store. I can always remember classmates who shopped there, and how embarrassed they were about it. Now, here I was, embarrassed that I had never shopped at one. I might have never realized this, had I not volunteered. It was a learning experience that I enjoyed doing. Some customers even did volunteer work get discounts on items that they had bought in the store. So, whether it’s by choice or for cause, I believe in volunteering.