By: Jolo Motus
When Gerardo started sleeping under the stop sign in the corner of my neighborhood, everything changed. Two summers ago, Gerardo ended up in Academy Way, the street I lived in. He told me that he was normally from Monrovia, then moved to skidrow, and somehow ended up on my street. With a stolen Target cart and a black hefty bag with his personal belongings, Gerardo was a forty something year old mexican man and all he could remember was his name and where he was from. He barely spoke english, and struggled to speak spanish. He couldn’t even string words together. During summer, I would always bump into him then I’d greet him. I would bring him a cold water bottle and some canned goods that was sitting in the back of my pantry.Then, all of a sudden, he disappeared after a month without saying adios to me. I found out that the neighbors in the corner of my street reported him to the police for loitering. However, Gerardo also reminded me of my uncle. They were both homeless, both lonely, and more importantly, they both had the chance to turn their lives around with better decisions. After dropping out of college, my uncle became jobless. He claimed that he was going on a vacation to Singapore, but he really just moved to another city and put a halt in his education. He was on the streets, scraping for pennies. When my grandmother and I went grocery shopping, we saw him sitting on a blanket and had a water cup in front of him that was filled with a few dollars and pennies. He was too ashamed to return home and was too embarrassed to look at my grandma in the eyes. After a long and emotional persuasion, he finally returned. Nonetheless, Gerardo still inspired me to help out people like him because even though he had nothing else but his cart and bag, people hindered him instead of helping him.
Every few months, the Japanese National Honor Society club took a field trip to the Orange County Food Bank for volunteer work. This was the perfect opportunity for me to contribute and help out those like Gerardo. Andre Gaithe was the supervisor, and he organized this big event. Clubs from different schools and districts came out to help out one another. It wasn’t just high school students, but it was also children and senior citizens that participated in the work. We learned how to cooperate with one another and collaborate with people outside of our clubs and age range. We all had significant roles. I lifted heavy boxes, packaged goods, crushed old cardboard boxes, and organized fruits. I also helped out senior citizens by arranging each items in the package, and I helped out little kids by showing them how to meticulously classify the fruits and package them. Knowing that these tough labor is for the homeless community, I was motivated to keep volunteering in this program. Community service allowed me to discover within myself and I felt a sense of reward, boosted my self- esteem, and I felt a sense of belonging to my community. This taught me the key to achieving happiness , and how offering a helping hand could make you feel so good without having to reach for your wallet. Even though I couldn’t provide Gerardo help in time, I still strive to help out others like him and my uncle. I aim to influence others that the homeless is harmless and that they need to open their arms out because all they need is another chance. I will continue to serve my community because there’s a big difference between being in a community and belonging in a community.