November 15, 2012 by Guest Contributor
I know it is ridiculous to be as excited as a five-year-old about Christmas at the age of seventeen, but I cannot help it. Christmas has special meaning to me because it is more than just receiving presents. It means getting involved in my community in a way that very few people might enjoy. I live in the poverty-stricken area of Uptown in Chicago; it has the most diverse number of cultures in any given area of Chicago, it is on the border of three rivaling gangs, and it contains the highest number of illegal weapons of any other neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. In this year alone, there have been at least three violent occurrences that have caught the attention of both local and national media.
Uptown is a dangerous place to live, but it is the neighborhood that I call home. I live in an intentional community that works among the poor of Uptown. Our community runs a shelter that serves not only homeless women and children but homeless families as well. One of the events that makes my Christmas holiday special is going to the shelter with my family to distribute bags of Christmas presents to the families who must spend their holidays without a home. When we arrive at the shelter, we go to a large room filled with black garbage bags overflowing with gifts. Our job is to present these overflowing bags of gifts to the families. To some, this may seem like an arduous task, but for me it is an opportunity to help the homeless celebrate a happier Christmas. Serving the homeless in this small way has opened my eyes to serving those less fortunate than me. It has given me a heart of compassion and a deeper awareness of others’ needs. I will carry these attributes into the college community. It would be my hope that my fellow students would learn from my experience with the homeless as I continue to learn from those around me.
By: Zac (17), JPUSA Student