A letter from YAV Leslie Lang in Nashville
April 21, 2010
This morning at the Room at the Inn Campus for Human Development, a homeless participant approached me at the Support Desk, and we started talking. He was someone whom I have seen numerous times over the months, and we have had several previous encounters. In other words, we are not strangers to one another. However, this morning was the first time that he discovered that I am not a staff member, but a full-time volunteer. He looked at me incredulously, and said with a mix of surprise and almost cynicism, “What? You mean you don’t get paid to do this every day? Then why in the world do you do it?!”
This reaction is one that I have heard so many times over the past seven months that I have lost count. Most of the time, I just shrug with a smile on my face and say, “Well, it’s never boring!” Although this is true, it can hardly begin to describe the real rewards that I have reaped from this experience so far.
The YAV program slogan reads, “A Year of Service for a Lifetime of Change.” Reflecting on this statement again tonight made me realize just how appropriate it is for this volunteer experience. Even though the YAV program only lasts a year (eleven months, to be technical), I already know that the impact it has had will stay with me forever. I have become not only educated about the issue of homelessness, but discovered a passion for it that I never knew was there before I started working at the Room at the Inn. I have learned what is like to live more simply; to enjoy the small (and often free!) pleasures of life, such as sitting on the front porch chatting with a neighbor or enjoying the breeze from the open windows. I have developed a strong and beautiful sense of community with the other lovely ladies with whom I have shared the entire journey. Most important of all, I have been put in a position where God is at work in and around me every single day.
It may not always be easy or fun. In fact, there have definitely been days when I might have asked myself the exact same question that the visitor asked me: “Why in the world am I doing this?” But growth is not supposed to be easy. What it is supposed to be, however, is transformative, and I can say with complete confidence that I am not the same person I was when I started YAV back in September. I have become just a little more who God has called me to be in this world. I could not think of a better reason to the question “why” than that one.