Zach McFarland

Week of Service Reflection

            Going into this, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had a general idea of what I would be doing, of course, but as to the nature of my service and everything surrounding it, I had no idea how the week was going to play itself out. It is one thing to be welcomed, but it something else entirely to feel genuinely welcome in a new place. I felt welcome by the staff and other volunteers there. Because of that, it was fairly easy to get involved fully in serving the needs of the community through volunteering my time.

I found that while I was there, the needs of the community really presented themselves to me as I talked with other volunteers, staff, residents of the Timothy House, and people we served through Neighbors Helping Neighbors. It was surprising to me to see that poverty was very real in Athens County, despite the appearance of being wealthy given the University and numerous prospering businesses present in Athens. The picture of poverty, or rural poverty at least, and homelessness didn’t fit the picture I’ve been given throughout my life. The picture of poverty I’ve had until recently is one of outward poverty. Those left outside in the cold, covered in dirt, drunk, begging for money on the side of the street were those who fit the bill. It was easy to see. The poverty I encountered this week wasn’t always like that. Many of the residents in the Timothy House, for instance, even new ones, didn’t look or sound as if they were victims of poverty and homelessness. It wasn’t until you would talk with them would you begin to discern why they were there. They simply fell on hard times with their jobs, family, or whatever else, and lost their financial stability. Had I not known they were residents there, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that they were without a home.

Some of those I served this week simply needed material stability (whether it be something repaired or painted, steady income, a place to stay, food, etc.), but all of them needed community. Whether the family members lacked the resources or compassion to care for them or they had no one, those that I served needed someone to care for them, include them in a community, love them, and simply treat them like they matter. It was great to be able to do that in volunteering time at the Timothy House, at Friday Night Life, and Neighbors Helping Neighbors. I found that most of the time, serving didn’t really feel like work. Sometimes, rather than working on something, just talking and spending time with those was just as, if not more, valuable. Out of the different “programs” I got involved in, the Timothy House was by far my favorite because there I had the most time to spend time and talk to the residents. It really did feel like a home rather than a temporary shelter.

Overall, the Week of Service was a great experience through which I was able to learn a lot, serve those who needed it in various ways, and in a sense, experience God and how He operates. I enjoyed it, and hope to do it again when an opportunity arises.