by ELLE DUMONT '20
As girls attending Saint Ursula Academy, I think we can all agree that we live in a tiny bubble; this means that we can be completely sheltered and some of us might be unaware to the poverty that prevails in greater Cincinnati. Students at SUA have so much to be thankful for. We take our privileged lives for granted and although we seemingly have everything, we can find ourselves complaining.
Volunteering is an activity that some simply put on their to-do list: to earn volunteer hours for NHS, to put on college resumes… Volunteering can be seen as just another job to get done. I’ve learned that by simply going through the motions, you are cheating yourself out of a much deeper experience.
Sophomore year, I became involved with Saint Vincent De Paul (SVdP) through Saint Ursula’s coat drive. Since then, I’ve volunteered Saturday mornings in the food pantry on Bank Street and attended seasonal events. One of the biggest gifts I’ve been given through volunteering is the gift of perspective.
The reason I choose to give time to SVdP is because I can interact and have a genuine conversation with those who I am helping. On Saturdays, the job I take on is assisting the “neighbors”, or locals, shop for groceries.
One of my favorite memories from community service downtown is when I shopped with a mother of three girls. The woman explained to me that she worked as a nurse to provide for her daughters, and never had any time to spend with her girls. However, that same night, she had work off, and wanted to do something special. When we got to the bakery aisle, I helped the mother pick Confetti Cake Mix with icing and sprinkles. The smile on her face was one I won’t forget. This woman was so grateful and excited that she could do something fun for her family. In this instance, I realized how blessed I am to have the things I have; food, family, opportunities…
On another occasion, one of the neighbors I helped rode his bike 30 minutes in the pouring rain just to get food for his family. After shopping through the aisles and hearing about his daily life and cat named “Butt,” we bagged all of the cans and boxes. There ended up being about seven heavy bags. The man smiled and told me he’d probably have to carry them since the ride was so long and biking with the goods was risky. He didn’t mind the trek home and was just thankful that he had groceries. Although we ended up making the bags into backpacks so the man could ride his bike, I again realized how much I take for granted. This man rode his bike thirty minutes in a torrential downpour and was still so kind, happy, and excited about life. I find myself complaining about carrying my backpack or having to walk places that I need to go. I challenge you to find the light and realize how lucky you truly are the next time you find yourself grumbling about miniscule dilemmas.
Through all of my experiences with community service at SVdP, I’ve learned to think about my life with a more positive attitude. I learned that people who have little, still find the joy and happiness in life. I think that it is fair to say that if I had to ride my bike in the rain for a long time, I’d be complaining excessively. The neighbors that I interact with are gracious and excited about life.
I learned that we don’t have to look far for people who are in need of our assistance. Living in Cincinnati, poverty is in our backyard, and students at SUA, having been blessed with so much, should consider giving back to our city. Not only will you gain a new outlook on life, but you will also make impactful connections with neighbors.
Contact SVdP: RNartker@svdpcincinnati.org