Youth Forward scholarship summer 2016 – The Importance of Human Dignity

Name: Alix Mahon
From: San Bruno, California
Grade: 12
School: University of California, Davis
Votes: 0

I think there is a certain stigma surrounding soup kitchens. Like it’s
simply a place where homeless people go to get bland, tasteless meals
slopped onto a Styrofoam plate by volunteers who are cringing at the
unsightly meat stew (was that even meat?) they just served. So of
course, when my mom told me I was going to volunteer at a soup
kitchen, that’s the first image that popped into my mind. Despite
feeling slightly depressed over the image in my mind I went for the
opportunity anyway and was pleasantly surprised when I walked through
the doors of the Daily Bread. The serving room was set up like a
restaurant with tables and chairs, all the way down to silverware
rolled in napkins. Each table had a decoration of some sort in the
middle and the walls were painted with bright murals and dotted with
paintings of the surrounding area. When we began serving, the
volunteers hand carried plates of meat, fruit, salad, bread and
potatoes to the individuals who came for their sit down meal and
personally asked each person for their preferred drink. The way the
Daily Bread functioned gave me an entirely new perspective on soup
kitchens. I began volunteering there more and more.

Now, three years later, I have put over 100 of my summer hours into the
Daily Bread. My volunteer hours average to around 4 hours twice a
week. Each time I go I see both familiar and new faces so I have made
friends of all ages and ethnicities. My favorite guest is named
Thomas who gives me a warm hug and thanks me every time he comes in
to get a meal. The best thing to receive as a volunteer is knowing
that you helped take part in brightening someone’s day.

My jobs at the Daily Bread vary each time I come in. I’ve cycled
through jobs from serving, to organizing take home bags of groceries
for people who missed meal time, to manning kitchen duties like
prepping a salad or cutting dessert. It’s great to learn how each
aspect of the organization works so you always seemed involved and
connected in some way. My favorite job is probably serving only
because I love socializing and hearing the stories of the guests.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from my time volunteering at the Daily
Bread is the importance of human dignity. It’s not enough to simply
provide food, but rather foster an environment where people feel they
are cared for. To me, forward looking means, how is the Daily Bread a
piece of something larger in my life. And looking forward, as my time
here comes to a close, I know the Daily Bread has shaped my desire to
work in Social Services in the future beyond school. While it’s
hard to make your mark on the world, if I could simply spread the
importance of human dignity I know that would be enough.

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