Witnessing Selflessness – Memphis, TN


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I am fortunate to have a specific moment on this trip that truly changed my vision of the world. This sounds cliché, but once I explain what happened I hope you understand where I am coming from. The first four days of our trip were already incredible because of the organizations we were partnered with and the amazing people we were able to meet. However, there was one night, one organization, and one interaction that really made the trip for me.

When Wednesday night of our trip rolled around, I was exhausted and confused as to why we were going on a bike ride at 8 PM. The organization we were serving that night was called Urban Bike Food Ministry and though the name is pretty telling of what we would be doing, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and I found it difficult to get excited. However, when we arrived my mindset flipped. Our mission for the evening was to meet people experiencing homelessness where they are at instead of them having to make a trip to us to receive a meal, clothes, or company. I loved this idea and immediately became interested. Although I was excited about our activity, I had no idea the impact that night would leave on me. Our first task was to fill our backpacks with burritos or hotdogs, chips, snacks, socks, shoes, hygiene packs, and really anything we could fit in our small bags. I really regret bringing a small draw string bag because I wished I could have stuffed it more.

At 8 PM sharp, we prayed and took off to our designated locations. The first location was at the beginning of Main St. right off the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful night and I definitely felt the butterflies in my stomach because of what I was about to encounter. After the first stop was over, my nerves left my body and I became confident in my ability to approach any person on Main street and ask if they had eaten that night. It became a conversation more than a confrontation and I started falling in love with the experience and more so with the people I was getting the opportunity to meet and get to know in the few short minutes we had with them.

About an hour into our ride, I found a man sitting in front of a mail box that no one else noticed. I told the coordinator of our ride, Lyell, that I was going to give the man something to eat so he joined me to give him water. As soon as we approached the man, Lyell asked where the man’s shoes were. Damion, the man we had just met, said that all he had was the flip flops that were next to him. His feet were extremely swollen and it looked like he was in a ton of pain. What happened next was something I never expected to.

Lyell asked Damion what sized shoe he was and he answered, “13.5, but I could squeeze into anything.” I handed him a pair of socks and started putting them on his feet when Lyell told me to wait a second. I thought Lyell was going to go back to his bike to look for the correct sized shoe for Damion, but instead he took off his own shoe knowing that they probably wouldn’t fit, but he knew he had to try. With socks on, Lyell’s shoes would definitely be too tight so we kept them off and tried to fit them on Damion’s feet. Unfortunately, they did not fit, but Lyell asked Damion to stay in that spot if possible and said he would bring a pair of shoes around in about an hour. The entire time this was happening, I was standing there with a pair of socks and two hotdogs, completely in awe of what was happening. What I had to offer wasn’t anything close to what Lyell had just done. The kindness and selflessness that Lyell showed Damion was something I have never experienced. The way that I describe this act and feeling is like a parent’s love, but to a complete stranger because Lyell had true love for this man. Lyell is the kind of person that I want to be, and this story will forever remain the reason that I continue to love every person regardless of circumstances.

Sarah Giacomini

Class of 2020