On my daily route to work I pass a Catholic Charities building. Today I drove by and saw a familiar sight - several privileged white teenagers attempting to clean a yard on the same block. They were skinny, blond, wearing name-brand clothes, and stood out like a sore thumb.
This strikes a chord with me because as recently as three years ago, that was me. I went on three different community service trips in Chicago, St. Louis, and New York City. I remember constantly being uncomfortable and wishing that I was there by myself rather than 30 white kids decked out in Abercrombie gear. I also remember the crippling anxiety attacks I suffered daily, and how I still had no idea what was happening to me. It was like puberty, but 10 times worse.
The thing I always wondered was, how much did these efforts really help? It's rare for me to quote the Bible, but Jesus said once that there will always be poor. Are these suburbanites better people because they went a week without iPods and Facebook to serve others? What happens when they go back to their three-car garage worlds and forget about everything they saw? The trips I went on were full of mixed emotions. I was shocked by the poverty, amazed at the metropolis settings, and both scared of the comments and proud of the compliments that we would receive from strangers.
I miss those trips. There really was nothing like the girl in your group that exclaims on the NYC subway, "so THAT's where the World Trade Center used to be." Could there be a better invitation for robbery?