t was like any other day that I volunteered at this homeless shelter, yet something
spectacular transpired in just one conversation I had with a complete stranger. I was no longer a
volunteer, I became a friend. I became a part of another person’s life.
I had not been serving at this shelter for long, and most of the work I did revolved around
greeting the guests and engaging in light conversations while our stomachs grew happy and full
from the warm home-cooked meals prepared by the other volunteers. Most of the guests were
individuals living in poverty or were homeless and marginalized. This community center was a
refuge for them. A place to call home. I tried my best to be a sibling, a niece, a granddaughter, or
cousin. I wanted to show the guests we are all truly a part of one big family and one ultimate
mission: to love others greatly and unconditionally. Yet, I still felt like an outsider. A stranger. An
Despite my feelings of alienation and sense of “not belonging,” I continued to volunteer
because I knew that friendship and love grew with time. I needed one more day, one more week,
one more month in order to truly know the guests and the other volunteers. I needed just as much
time to know them as they did to know me.
I started most of my conversations off with a simple liner, “How’s your day?” Most people
responded back to me kindly with a simple response like “good” or “fine” and the conversation
drifted off onto the weather and news. One day, I saw this particular family with such a beautiful
young boy, laughing and smiling with much joy in their eyes. Their carefree and joyful presence
was so contagious I just had to introduce myself and start a conversation. I can’t remember how
the conversation began, but I knew I never wanted the conversation to end. We laughed, cried, and embraced one another. It was the first time we all felt like we belong; that somehow we were
long-lost family meeting each other after a period of separation.
It takes only one conversation to change from being a stranger to a friend. I moved from
greeting the residents to actually knowing who they were and becoming a vital connection in
their lives. I can’t imagine my life without these residents. One small, yet bold act of compassion
gave me a new family and a greater grasp of true community. I can’t wait to talk to a new
resident. There’s one more stranger that will become a friend that will soon become family.
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