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Alternative Spring Break

March 20, 2011   For the first week of spring break, I volunteered at a homeless shelter in Syracuse, the Rescue Mission!  I wasn't alone, of course - on Monday morning I crammed myself into a Jitney with nine fellow ASBers.  I really liked my group; I met a lot of great people I might never have run into otherwise.  I'm not really one for bonding, so it's a big deal when I say that I really enjoyed getting to know everybody on the trip.  More on that later.

When we arrived in Syracuse, the people at the Rescue Mission were extremely accommodating.  They set us up with very nice rooms (I was one of only two guys on the trip, so we got a room all to ourselves!), gave us a tour of all of their facilities, and then sent us to work at their Thrifty Shopper store.  A Thrifty Shopper is like a Goodwill or Salvation Army type place.  That day, they had several bags of donated clothing that it was our job to sort.  And let me tell you, I have never seen that much underwear in one place, let alone in those sizes!  Some of these were more like tents than undergarments, but I digress.

The man who ran the store, Chris, was extremely friendly, not to mention hilarious.  He was actually one of the Rescue Missions's success stories.  I thought it was really cool how somebody could come from such an unfortunate situation and end up running a Thrifty Shopper with an office full of interesting trinkets and Obi-Wan Kenobi action figures.  But again, I digress.

Tuesday, we got to the real work: painting the inside of the shelter.  The work started a little slowly - a few of us had more experience painting than others.  But by the end of the day we were moving with what the experts call maximum efficiency.  We rocked those walls so hard that on Thursday, they even had us repaint some walls that another volunteer group did.  I'm telling you, we were a well-oiled machine.  You should've been there.  It was wild.

Beyond painting, we also worked at the cafeteria.  Seeing all the different people, attitudes, and demeanors that came through the food center was a really interesting experience in itself.  It struck me that many of the people we were serving would be calling the shelter their home that night.  And these shelters rely heavily on volunteers like us, many of whom just decided on a whim, "Yeah, maybe I'll give ASB a try."  I could go on and wax poetic about how crazy it is that a college student's "interesting way to spend spring break" can be so necessary to so many people, but I'd rather you do your own volunteer work and make your own musings.  Because everybody's musings are different, and I think it's more important that people think about homelessness and hunger and service than hear what I have to think about it.

And truth be told, I feel like the people who made me do the most thinking last week were my fellow trip-goers.  Like I said, I got to know a lot of people I never would've met otherwise, and in getting to know them, I got to know a lot of different perspectives on, well, everything.  From late night conversations about the challenges of public education to emotional fruit impersonations, the people I met on ASB made me think in different and interesting ways.  And that alone made the trip above and beyond what I could've hoped for.

And yes, this is absolutely a plug.  When you get to Hamilton, do ASB.
Until next time!

This entry's Shout Out goes to Meghan Woolley, Andrew Portuguese, Muriel Schwinn, Kathryn Tooker, Alison Brown, Alyssa Womer, Joelle Adler, Katy Mastrocola, and Dani Lashley.  Winning!