By: Lauren Tadych, Sophomore
It can be difficult to break out of your comfort zone. It can be challenging to sign up for a weeklong trip with 10 people you’ve never encountered. But, after doing it last year in North Carolina working with Habitat for Humanity, I knew I had to sign up for another BREAKAWAY trip this year. I decided to go on the Washington D.C. trip with Center for Student Missions! For me, it was important to choose a place where I have never been. D.C. is very similar to Chicago in that there is gentrification. Basically, the neighborhoods are increasing in price and people who once could afford to live there no longer can which forces them out and as a result many of them end up on the streets. As a team, we quickly realized our purpose for going on the trip to D.C. was the same—to gain a new perspective and to be able to impact a life.
Every day was a jam-packed schedule. It was a program set up so we could use every bit of time that we had to get the most out of our experience. One of the best activities we did was actually the very first one. We each packed a lunch and went to the train station to share a lunch with someone who looked like they could use the company. Two other girls and I decided we would walk together, and we met some wonderful people by simply offering them lunch and company. These were people who lived off the street and as we joined them in conversation they were genuinely caught off guard that we were talking to them and treating them like real people. I took time to think about our conversations and realized that it didn’t matter what we were talking about, it just mattered that we approached them and got the opportunity to speak with them. Even though talking with them made my day so much better, I know they appreciated the company even more.
We also had the opportunity to help at a food kitchen that served breakfast to the homeless community every morning. I met a beautiful soul named Tony who had so much friendly energy—he could put a smile on any face. I got the opportunity to share a meal with him as he willingly opened up to me about some pretty serious things. He told me about his sobriety from heroine, his illnesses, about his kids who he doesn’t get to see often, and his relationship with God. He really opened my eyes to what matters the most in life and what really doesn’t. His positive attitude helped me see that nothing is so bad if you can take it and turn it into a positive. I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to meet him and get to talk to him even for a short period. Meeting Tony is something that I’ll never forget.
I had so many life-changing experiences while in D.C. for one week than I’ve had in my entire life. I built friendships with people who believe in the same things I do and some of them who don’t, and I got to make connections with people who I never would have known. I got to see the beauty of D.C. and I got to strengthen my relationship with God.
So stepping out of what’s comfortable, meeting a group of strangers, traveling to a new place, talking to the homeless, serving in new ways…well, it’s worth it and you should try it too.