Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Eyes Wide Open

I am in the Emerge Owensboro class this year and we meet once a month to learn about different aspects of our community.  This past week we had our Human Needs and Services Day.  We spent the day learning about the public service organizations in Owensboro and the needs of the lower income part of our community.  

I can honestly say it was one of the most eye-opening days of my life.  I am a very blessed person. Of course there are things that I wish I had like everyone does but I have a family, home, job and a vehicle.  All of those are things that I have always had and never had to worry about. This day was a strong reminder to be thankful for all of the blessings that I do have and to recognize that not everyone has these blessings.  

We spent the day without vehicles and kept phone use to a minimum.  I have never used public transportation in Owensboro before but I was fairly confident that it couldn't be hard, right?  I mean, you jump on a bus...ride to your destination...problem solved.  Well, it wasn't that easy.  We started our day at the Elizabeth Munday Senior Center where we learned about the services provided to our seniors and heard from the local United Way group.    Upon leaving the senior center, we traveled downtown via the bus to buy an all-day bus pass.  God bless the City of Owensboro Transit workers and their patience.  Using the bus system was a lot more complicated than I expected.  The routes had just recently changed and our updated maps weren't really "updated," there were 5 different color lines to learn, and I was expected to do this without my iPhone?  I consider myself to be very self-sufficient but transportation that day tested the small amount of patience I do possess.  The highlight of this bus experience was without a doubt the people that I encountered.  Everyone I met on the bus was extremely friendly, always spoke and went out of their way to help us understand the bus system.  It really shocked me how helpful everyone was to a perfect stranger who was obviously a fish out of water. 

Our case assignment included finding hospice care and grief counseling which took us to Hospice of Western KY.  I have luckily not had much experience with this service but I was so impressed with the services and quality of care that they offer our community. It was obvious how much they care about their clients and are focused on what really matters at such a difficult time in someone's life.  

We were each assigned a homeless shelter in town for lunch and a tour during the lunch hour.  Our group assignment was to the Boulware Mission.  What an amazing place!  I can't say enough good things about what this organization is doing.  

Our afternoon was spent touring Oasis and Girls, Inc. followed by a Homelessness in Owensboro panel made up of a representatives from four shelters in Owensboro (Daniel Pitino Shelter, Boulware Mission, St. Benedicts, St. Joseph Peace Mission).  It was difficult and enlightening to hear about the daily struggles these organizations see in people just looking to fill their basic needs of food, water and shelter.  I think many of us were surprised at how much of a problem this is in our town.  The shelters turn people away every day who have to seek a safe place to sleep elsewhere.  We were asked if we went to the shelters and they were full where we would go to sleep that night.  I'm an emotional person anyway but that question brought out tears (not for the first time that day).  I cannot even imagine not having a home to go to, much less having to find a public place to sleep where it's safe, especially for people with children.

It is easy to ignore problems in our community.  We have a lot of exciting changes and developments taking place that are a lot more fun and exciting to talk about than homelessness, poverty, and the needs of the elderly, poor, and abused.  However, if we want to succeed as a community we have to acknowlege our shortcomings, work to improve quality of life for everyone and always remember that any of us could be in a position to need these services a lot quicker than we like to talk about.

I could not be more thankful for having the experience of seeing my community from a completely different point of view.  It's easy to get wrapped up in my own life and my day-to-day problems but it is important to be reminded that there are people who struggle for the basics every day and that we should all be more thankful for what we do have.  I am grateful for this grounding experience that will hopefully help me to be a better leader and help out where I can.  Here's to counting blessings instead of frustrations and appreciating all that we have!

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad this is part of Emerge! This is something I see every day and sometimes it's frustrating to see money spent in the community that is so desperately NEEDED elsewhere.