My very first service project outside the classroom with BuildOn (my school’s community service organization) was during my freshman year. Me and my service learning group helped people on Methadone Mile, a place in Boston, mainly along Mass Ave, that houses meth clinics. People who struggle with addiction come to the Mile both to get treatment and to use safely. My classmates and I made ration bags to hand out to people on the Mile. Each bag was filled with some snacks (crackers and applesauce), a pamphlet listing nearby homeless shelters, and an inspirational note.
My group and I took the MBTA bus from school to Methadone Mile. When we got off we walked until we found a small group of people experiencing homelessness. While we handed out ration bags, one man walked up to us and thanked us. He then started telling us his story. He said that he dropped out of school when he was younger, and his family left him, leaving him with nowhere to go. He talked about struggling with methamphetamine for a while to the point where he actually overdosed once. Thankfully, he was in front of a hospital when it happened so they were able to revive him. I couldn’t help but feel really bothered because he was suffering more than ever. And yet he felt comfortable enough to tell us -- complete strangers -- his entire life story.
Everyday I see people walk by people in the homeless community as if they don’t exist. Many people don’t give them money because they can’t control how the money will be spent. Heck, even while we were handing out the ration bags, we saw passerbys refusing to even acknowledge the existence of these individuals. It felt so sickening to watch to the point where I almost cried out of frustration, but thankfully it was still winter so I could blame my tears on the cold air blowing on my face.
The man felt quite happy seeing us out there helping everyone. He said that he wished that there were more people like us to help him and his friends that he had met on the Mile. He said that since he was homeless he had to survive off of what little scraps either came by or were dropped by passersby. He also said that when he finally gets some help he’d try and reconcile with his kids and repair their family. As he was talking I couldn’t help but feel empathy because I know what struggling is like. I am a Person of Color and I come from poverty myself. I have friends and family who have struggled with addiction and I understand how painful and damaging it can be.
My service learning group and I continued to help the other people on the Mile until we ran out of ration bags. When it was time to leave, my group and I said goodbye to the people we had met. We got back on the MBTA bus and rode back to school. The lesson I learned from this experience was that, no matter where you are in life, someone out there cares about you, so keep hoping and trying and you’ll receive some help or a blessing.
© Gabrielle Boyce Grant. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.