We are honored today to have another gust writer for our blog, Jennifer Keck Markle, she is going to use her own experience in this blog post…Enjoy her expertise!
My First Trip
Saturday was my first trip to go to the camps and pass out food, water and personal care items. The day started when I met up with Rusty and another volunteer and we loaded up the suburban with all the supplies that were donated for that week. We then took off to about 20 different camps – most of which we stopped and parked, hiked to the camp, met and talked with the people, then they followed us down to the car and got their supplies. Sounds simple enough right? Each place was different and everyone had different needs. Overall I have to say that the entire experience was amazing, awful, inspiring, devastating, fulfilling, terrifying, and quite educational.
It was amazing. Because some of these people have such a great outlook on their situation. They have nice camps, keep pets, and are just trying to do the best they can. Some even have gardens! They were grateful for anything we were able to pass out, but most importantly grateful for the fellowship and to know that someone came to check on them/help them in any way possible. The thing that I admire about Rusty and his organization is that he takes the time to try and help people obtain housing or their military benefits. It’s not just about passing out food, it’s about helping these people get to a better place.
It was awful. Because some of the camps were not so nice. I’ve camped at Talladega and left on a Monday morning after the race and it is nasty – beer cans, garbage and all kinds of other unmentionable stuff everywhere. A few of the camps made the track look like a palace. I was prepared for garbage and beer cans, but I don’t think I was mentally prepared to see people on drugs and talk to them and see their ragged camps and what their choices have done to their life.
It was inspiring. Because so many of the people – vets especially – were so positive. They did library book swaps with us (I thought that was brilliant), or just got excited to see what was in the truck. I had an entire conversation with a guy about how he likes to cook his ramen and Vienna sausages to make a perfect pasta for one. Food for these people isn’t about what you want, it’s about what you have. Shouldn’t we all worry less about what we want and focus on what we have?
It was devastating. Because I truly had no idea how many homeless were in our city. I’m sure that there are many more camps that Rusty hadn’t even heard about. And I know that there are plenty of homeless who don’t even have the benefit of having a camp. If this is true in Huntsville, a city full of rocket scientists and engineers, I wonder how many more homeless there are a less forward city. It is so sad to think about what people in our country are going through – literally in our own back yards.
It was fulfilling. Because I took half a day out of my life and used it to pass out stuff that people needed. I talked to them, took notes on special requests for next week, and got filthy disgusting dirty and a case of poison ivy, and felt like I worked hard for those few short hours. It was awesome. I made a difference and all it took was a little time and effort on my part.
It was terrifying. Because I had no idea where we were going. Because I had met Rusty once and was flying on faith that we would be safe. Because at one camp we had to check for dead people. Because our last stop – tent city – was full of drunk guys that crowded around us and fought each other and made more than a few very lewd comments. Because most importantly, I was WAY out of my comfort zone. Because at the end of the day it was real. And real life is far more terrifying than any movie.
It was educational. Because at the first stop we fed and watered the dogs because the camp was empty and I didn’t know we would do that. Because at one stop a guy needed razors so I handed him a pack and he said, “No ma’am, I just need a few.” Can you say rookie? Because items I had brought like the shave gel and facial cleansing cloths made everyone so excited, when I wasn’t sure I should be picking them up. Because now I know what types of foods people can actually use in the camps and what is really needed. Because……well because it was something I had never done before.
When I got home I was exhausted and emotionally drained. But I had done what I promised myself and had seen what my little $5/week pledge can do for someone else. I can’t wait to go again this Saturday!
The Forgotten Shall Be Forgotten No More