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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The gift of giving back

    Volunteers at the Salvation Army showed up on Christmas Day at the Tucson Convention Center and did a good deed by serving meals to the less fortunate. But how do you define “less fortunate”? Poor, out of work, or maybe just lonely?

    When you’re a college kid who is lucky enough to have a home and a healthy family, and was just given an iPhone or video game for the holidays, it should only feel natural to want to give back to someone who may not be so privileged. What you don’t expect is to be given an amazing gift in return.

    Salvation Army volunteers began serving the meal at 11 a.m. Outside the building, there were about 15 boxes of clothing for the visitors. People lined up, including the elderly, some veterans and families. Most heartbreaking to see were the children. Some think that those who are down on their luck have done something to deserve it, but that argument can’t be made for little ones.

    No matter the person’s situation, the volunteers gave each one a handshake, smile, and “Merry Christmas,” or “God bless you.”

    One woman whose dirty clothes strongly suggested homelessness flashed a smile. “I feel like a celebrity,” she said. Maybe she, along with others, was used to people not wanting to see her. It must have felt good to be welcomed somewhere. Honestly, it felt good to those welcoming her.

    This is the secret gift of giving back. You think you’re there to make others happy, but what you actually make is a bond, in which class, wealth and status don’t matter. To make someone feel that they are cared for, or a part of a community, can make all the difference in their lives and bring them happiness.

    Sheryl, a middle-aged woman who said she had just been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, was eating alone, but was joined by some of the volunteers. She told them she isn’t homeless, not that it matters to them, and explained that she wasn’t always struggling, not that that matters either. She described raising two children, now grown, and said she was a nurse before her disease sidelined her. Now that she is unable to work, it’s a struggle to survive financially.

    “I think it’s a wonderful thing for people to come do this,” she said, looking around the dining hall. “It’s so important to volunteer, I wish my kids would do it. They don’t know what underprivileged is. They had it good.”

    A lot of us at the UA should come to this realization. Not only are we blessed with many privileges, we should remember that nothing is permanent in this life, and nothing is guaranteed, despite the hope for a bright future that gets us out of bed for those early classes.

    Sheryl used to volunteer at such dinners, before she found herself in line for one. What you take with you after working at such a meal is not a sense of sadness or of pity. It is a deep admiration for those who are struggling in the often heartless world. When you open your heart to them, and listen to their stories, you both leave feeling full.

    Danielle Carpenter is a pre-journalism freshman. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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