Sitting here waiting for this peach dump cake to cool I ponder. I ponder about the clients who I have encountered while working for the Kitchen. I ponder about how all of these clients are so different yet they all have the same problem–poverty.

We would say they live in poverty. Yet many of  these clients wouldn’t necessarily put themselves in that category. This is either out of pride or because they just see the world differently than you and I. And, the greatest thing that I have learned is the importance of not using pronouns like ‘them’ and ‘us’ in the first place. This is the first step in labeling and consequently misjuding people. The face of poverty is differs because WE are all different. Poverty is a war veteran, a child from a low-income family, an adult with a physical disability, an adult with a mental disability, a single mother, a young adult trying to make it on their own, an elderly person, or a person with a terminal illness. Poverty is not a woman. Poverty is not a man. Poverty is not Black, White, or Hispanic. Poverty is everyone and it affects everyone in one way or another.

The clients we serve are people; therefore, they should be treated as such. Volunteers at the Campus Kitchen are encouraged to interact with our congregate clients during delivery shifts. Most delivery shifts occur around lunchtime. We serve and socialize. Serving our clients and then sharing a meal with them makes the food gesture seem like less of a handout. I understand now that sitting and talking with our clients is the most important aspect of this program. Even though it may be uncomfortable for us as volunteers we should try our hardest to step outside of our comfort zones for the sake of our clients.

As a young volunteer, I have noticed that young people struggle the most with showing compassion for those in need. I have witnessed many a service project where teens would rather send text messages than be as efficient as they possibly could. Also, at the soup kitchen in Atlanta where I volunteer the manager makes a point to tell people not to use their cell phones while serving. We shouldn’t need a reminder to be courteous, but sadly, that is the case in many circumstances. I have rediscovered that a little courtesy goes along way.

I have also rediscovered the importance of a great first impression. Working for the Kitchen I have met a lot of people. Currently, I have been assigned to call restaurants in order to increase the amount of food donors. It is important to look, sound, and act the part at all times. Otherwise, you will not gain anyone’s trust or respect. I am finally grasping the concept that the Campus Kitchen Project is a hunger relief and leadership development program. I considered myself a leader before working here, but I have learned so many life lessons and leadership skills in such a short amount of time.

As for poverty, it is a real problem.  But there is not just one solution. If we all do our part, we can alleviate the symptoms of poverty. Maybe someday poverty will just be a memory. And I can talk about it as if it were a file in my mind’s filing cabinet right next to the one marked ‘Shepherd Alliance Internship: Summer 2009.’