Name: Bailey Denise Nichols
From: Conroe, Texas
School: Ischool High
Oppressive darkness surrounded the city as we walked through the
streets of New Orleans. Darkness that wasn’t only caused by the
simple absence of light, but by a sort of malicious presence that
could be felt deep in one’s soul. The darkness caused fear to swell
within me, starting in my stomach and expanding until it seemed to
crush my heart. I was with my youth group on a mission trip when we
lost track of time while on a “fun” outing and ended up in the
French Quarter after dark.
We craved the light and ran to each source we could find with
desperate ferocity. I couldn’t relax. Not when we were in our
vehicles. Not when we were out in the parking lot. Upon entering our
room I locked the door and only then did I allow myself to breathe. I
remember that night feeling the darkness…choking panic being
suppressed…helplessness and being inexplicably exposed. I had no
Idea that this was the situation of the city.
A few days before our outing we visited a homeless shelter to hand
out care packages. I was able to talk to a man there and ask how he
ended up in the city. He told me that he left home because of family
issues and ended up here. He had tried hard to get a job and leave,
but said these words that I will never forget. “You can’t leave
New Orleans. Not if you are homeless anyway. You just can’t
escape.” They are haunting words that rang in my head lying there
that awful night. I felt horrible that the man didn’t have anything
to protect him from crime, except for a convenient freeway.
This is why community service is important. There are so many people
that have so little, like the children we spent time with at a park
during that week of mission trip. They were in poor, broken, families
which was evident when we put on a puppet show and one boy was given
puppets representing a husband and wife. He took the man, yelled
“shut up!” and hit the woman with the man puppet.
We weren’t allowed to stay passed 3:00pm, with good reason. One day
someone got shot and killed 30minutes after we left the park. But I
believe that even small things like giving the most basic supplies to
a homeless man, or spending time with a hurt child, can make a
difference in this shattered world. Spreading love and compassion to
someone who can then spread it to another.
This is why I volunteer. To learn, teach, and pass on kindness and a
wisdom that reaches beyond the comfy life I am used to living. So the
mistakes others make I will not repeat and help those who can’t
always help themselves. I hope that others will realize that there is
wisdom in learning from those they serve, so they may, too, give to
their community and spread kindness to those in need.