It was the first days of March, when I started to plan my future routine in DC: classes, some free time to tour around DC, outings with the exchanges students, time to work on English, running, and weekends to travel. It seemed to be enough plans, even too many activities for each week, but when looking at my schedules I felt that I needed to add some sort of community service activity.
Unexpectedly one of my classes has a community service activity as a requirement. That is how I started my online search for some place for me to help, to be useful. That is how I found Georgetown Ministry Center, an organization of the diverse communities in the neighborhood of Georgetown, dedicated to guiding homeless individuals towards stability and housing.
My volunteer work: collaborating on Saturday afternoons, greeting the homeless, talking, and helping them with the computers or with their laundry. Definitely, my experience these past Saturdays was doing more than simple tasks.
Sharing a coffee, playing some game, listening about some experience or about some country where they are from, knowing about some astonishing life’s story, or simply receiving a smile were gifts for me. It was worth it to realize that my needs seems to be simple whims in comparison with their needs. I realized that my worries, my exams, my problems in general do not matter when I have someone in front of me who needs to talk, or a shelter, or a meal, or a smile, something totally more important. I just need these couples of Saturdays to remember that I am privileged, having all the opportunities that I have.
It was like breaking a bubble, my new and awesome GW bubble. Or it was almost that, because the shelter is located in the nice neighborhood of Georgetown.
It is an interesting contrast, walking around its main street, seeing its fancy stores and restaurant compared to the shelter. I had a moment to realize how the unequal opportunities in the life are not only a problem of Latino America.
At the same time it was a chance to change the environment, a chance to give more value to my life. No doubt, the shelter surprised me; it was not what I was expecting. I had believed that I would help others, but I was the one who was helped: the guys taught me to play chess, they told me about place to go to in DC, and in the US. They even recommended to go to a politic think tank. I am definitely learning a lot, for instance, the last weekend we discussed drug cartels.
Even though I know that I don’t have more time in my day, sometimes I feel that the time that I spend with them is not a real commitment. However, I am sure that that is better than nothing.
I should only say thank you to my new friends at Georgetown Minister Center; thank you for showing me another interesting and enriching aspect of DC.