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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Spring Break Memories: Triple Bunk Beds and a Whole Lot of Heart

The morning air was crisp. As my co-lead and I bundled up as best as we could while waiting in one of the university’s parking lots, I started to feel a little afraid. What had I agreed to do? Driving six hours from Wilmington to Atlanta with one co-leader and a group of undergraduate students didn’t seem exciting anymore.
Slowly the students began to arrive. Some drove themselves, while others were dropped off by parents, friends, or extended family members. “Act natural,” I told myself. What does that even mean, I questioned.

What if we have an accident? What if someone gets hurt? What if they hate the trip…what if they hate me? I worked to silence the noise and prayed for the best.
We loaded the van, shared a few last-minute reminders, and were on our way. The trip started a bit more interactive with music and chatter, and laughter. About an hour in, everyone except my co-lead was asleep.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat and made our way to Atlanta. I tried as best as I could to point out all the places I loved and remained in awe of throughout the city I called home for nearly 14 years.

We arrived. We arrived safely! We were welcomed and quickly escorted to our rooms – triple bunk beds! I’d never seen triple bunk beds. I never knew triple bunk beds existed.

The students piled in one room while my co-lead and I unpacked our things in the room next door. We were informed we’d be joined by another volunteer – a graduate student – for the week as well. Three young women in one tiny room. With triple bunk beds.

For the next six days, we had early mornings and late nights. We started each morning by helping to prepare breakfast for the women and children living in a transitional shelter. After cleaning the kitchen, we had a few hours to venture into the city and tour historical sites in and around Atlanta. In the afternoons, we returned to welcome the children home from school, help with snacks and homework, and prepare to assist with serving dinner. After dinner, we co-led family-fun or recreation time.

After recreation time, we met for our daily debrief along with a group of students visiting from another university. After that daily debrief time, we met with our group for our own debrief and discussion time. And after that debrief time, my co-lead and I met for our own discussion and debrief, as well as the next day, planning time. The week was exhausting, but it was also fulfilling. And heartbreaking. And renewing. And humbling.

For one week, undergraduate students who are braver than I ever remember being gave up their Spring Breaks to serve. They chose to serve! Not go to the beach, not take a family vacation, not lounge in their dorm rooms or houses – although there is nothing wrong with any of these activities – they chose to travel six hours away and serve.

We learned a lot that week. We learned about sudden and adverse events that can lead to homelessness. We learned about the perpetual cycles of homelessness. We learned about our assumptions related to homelessness and the support mechanisms needed to create a sustainable livelihood. We learned about one another. We learned about compassion. We learned about patience. And we learned how to live, sleep, and serve while resting in rooms with triple bunk beds.

I’ll never forget those triple bunk beds. But I’ll also never forget those students. Or their hearts. Or their willingness to give. One special and unforgettable week. Triple bunk beds. And a whole lot of heart.

Note: This reflection is based on a Spring Break trip facilitated in 2020, just before news spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. All students made it back home safely with no COVID-19 diagnoses.

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