Over the past summer, I have been called every name in the book, besides the one my mom gave me: Victoria, Vicky, Molly, Georgia, Rachel, Zoe, Rebecca. The list of incorrect names goes on and on. Who is this person who could forget your name every single time you see them--you might be asking? Well, his name is Eddie, and he is my favorite person in the world, even if he can never remember my name.
I recently participated in a summer social justice internship at Rosie's Place, a women's shelter in Boston. With a group of twenty other high school students, I learned about social justice and volunteered at the food pantry and in the kitchen, giving food and meals to women who were down on their luck.
My favorite part of the entire experience was getting to work in the kitchen, where Eddie was the head chef, and my boss, during many seven a.m. breakfast and late afternoon lunch shifts. During these shifts, up to 15 different volunteers work together to create and serve delicious meals. We would prepare fantastic food, from barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes to fan-favorite cheese quesadillas, and even baked to perfection pan pizza. Serving it to the women and their kids restaurant-style, I got to meet so many amazing people and hear their stories of hardship, resilience, and triumph.
One of the most memorable moments I had during the internship happened at the Dollar Tree in Hingham, Massachusetts. The leaders of the program wanted participants to complete an act of independent community service, and I chose to create little goodie bags filled with travel-sized hygienic products for homeless women going to court. I planned on making twelve bags, each containing floss, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, chapstick, and mouthwash. My cart was overloaded with 72 packaged items once I finished shopping.
As I stood at the register, the cashier slowly started scanning the items. No one dared to get in line behind me, opting to go to another cashier to checkout, even though there was a long line. All of a sudden, I heard a voice from behind me say, "Wow, you're trying to stay clean, aren't you?" The gentleman was in his early fifties and had a single case of dog food sitting on the conveyor belt. I laughed and quickly explained why I was buying in bulk, to which he smiled. As I pulled out my credit card, preparing to pay, the man spoke again: "You know what, I'm gonna pay for all of this."
To say I was shocked is an understatement. I started to argue, but the man just shook his head and gave his credit card to the cashier as I walked out of the store, toiletries in hand. It is in those moments that you realize how good people are. Volunteering at Rosie's taught me the lesson that people are capable of incredible things if you give them the chance to do them, and this man was no different.
Being a part of Rosie's Place this summer was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much about the causes of homelessness and how easy it is to go from not worrying about food to not knowing the next time you will get a meal. I know that no matter where I go in life or what I do, I will always have a place at Rosie's. Whether that be a place for food, shelter, or a place where I can genuinely be myself, I can sleep easier just knowing it's there.
As my final year of high school gets underway, I can look back on the summer fondly. And I can smile, knowing that on the very last day of the internship, I was rewarded with Eddie finally getting my name right. That is what I call a successful summer!