Pre note: this is the first of my 16 reflections that I have to submit to the SSLP office as part of my course requirement. Yes, my motives are not entirely pure. I get 3 credits and $3000 in scholarships for my time here this summer
Having volunteered extensively at a drop-in center during high school, I felt I was exceptionally prepared for eight weeks of work at the Andre House. While I certainly knew I would be challenged, especially in terms of responsibilities I would hold, I thought I had a solid foundation in working with the urban poor. I never would have expected that a situation would leave me frozen with no idea how to respond; at least not in the first hour of my first day of serving. However, this is precisely what happened when a Native American woman burst into the Andre House, asked to make an emergency phone call, and then burst into tears.
I have never been comfortable around people when they get emotional. I am at a loss for action even if it is one of my close friends who is crying, especially if it is something that is out of my control. This woman was someone I had never even met, let alone befriended, so all I could do was awkwardly postpone any sort of response. Luckily, one of the other staff members had remained with me, and she took action. She did her best to comfort the woman, but we realized there was little either of us could do, since the woman was upset over the untimely death of a close friend. Nevertheless, the staff member continued to offer her tissues, ask her about her friend and gave her a big hug when neither of the woman’s two phone calls connected.
The staff member did next to nothing to change the woman’s situation, but she was consoled by the listening ear that was offered. However, this is the greatest act she could have done; in fact, it is the greatest act I can do in my time in Phoenix. I now see that listening is essential because it the only act that will make a true difference in individual lives. I do not have the resources to single handedly lift individuals out of poverty, or even do much to improve their standard of life beyond what the Andre House already does. However, by listening and letting them know I care, I can alleviate their suffering for a brief moment. If I can learn to do only one thing affectively in my time here, I hope that it will be to listen as my fellow staff member did.