21: Service with a Smile

21: Service with a Smile

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back

Service with a Smile

Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.

~Wayne W. Dyer

It was an early Saturday morning, about 5:30 a.m. My mom called to me. “Austin, get up! Time to go and serve the homeless!” I dragged myself out of bed.

I started serving the homeless when I was eight years old. I didn’t know these people would make such a big difference in my life.

Two Saturdays a month I go to the church and help get things ready for breakfast. When the gate is opened, people come rushing in to get coffee, juice or milk. They take their seats while breakfast is prepared, and then we begin to serve. We each grab two plates and carry them down the line as the plates are filled. Each person receives two pancakes, a scoop of eggs, hash browns, and two sausages. I walk to the tables where the people are sitting and set the plates before them. I always make sure to smile. After I’ve served them, I ask if they need anything else and bring them whatever they ask for. Some say thank you, some don’t, but I don’t care. I’m there to serve them.

When I first started serving I was a little scared. Some of the people were wearing clothes with patches on them and shoes with holes in them. They were not that clean and their teeth were yellow or missing. At first I stayed close to my mom most of the time, but after I got to know these strangers I realized that they were nice, friendly people. And the inside of them was often nicer than the outside. I started talking to my new friends and realized that there was no reason to be scared. After serving for a few months, I started to look forward to seeing the same people each week.

Take Cowboy. He always puts me in a good mood. When I see him, he always says, “Austin! How are you?” I’ve often heard him say that I am a really hard worker. This makes me feel really good inside because I know I’m making a difference in someone’s life. There’s a guy named Larry who has a lot of piercings and tattoos — even tattoos on his face! I would feel a little scared if I saw him on the street and didn’t know him, but now that I do know him I’ve realized that he’s a very nice guy. He even works at a church and helps others, too.

Then there’s Curtis. He’s a really big guy. Every time I see Curtis, he is very talkative. He always has a big smile on his face. Curtis has a friend named James. James is even taller and bigger than Curtis. When I first saw him, I thought, “Whoa! Is he a nice guy or not?” He looked really tough. But as soon as I met him, he said — in a deep, deep voice — Hello! What’s your name?” I knew that we would be good friends.

All of these people make my day much better. When I don’t see one of them, I wonder if they are okay. The past two years have made a big difference in my life. I do this because it is the right thing to do. When I serve people I want them to know that someone cares for them and that they matter — they are not just “homeless” — they are human beings. Serving makes me happy, but even more importantly, it teaches me to love and respect others and helps make the world a better place to live.

~Austin Nicholas Lees, age 10

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