I moved to Austin this summer, all by myself. I left my family and friends on the east coast to pursue a job here. While I love my work, I was lonely, living a time zone away from everyone I knew. Instead of spending weekends home alone, I decided to get out in the community. I decided I wanted to serve.
A quick Google search led me to Passion Missions, and after filling out an online form, I was registered to volunteer. I was nervous about the prospect of volunteering with an organization where people probably knew each other, where I might be an outsider. But I didn’t need to be.
When I got to the volunteer site, everyone was open and excited to chat with me. I met nursing students just a few years older than me and a grandmother whose grandchildren lived not too far from my own home back east. I learned about people’s lives while washing dishes. I discussed the intensity of Texas heat while pulling weeds. I asked for taco recommendations while sweeping the floors.
With each act of service, I made a connection. By the end of the day, I realized loving others through service wasn’t just about me giving my love to someone else. It was about loving a community and feeling unified through the act of helping one another. I helped Passion Missions and they helped Imagine Art, and all the volunteers and organizers there helped me feel a little more welcome in this new city.
That’s why it took me no time at all to sign up for the next Passion Missions event: preparing a taco lunch for the homeless. At this event, I didn’t hesitate to approach people or start up conversations. I was becoming a member of this community and I felt I belonged. I helped organize food and give instructions. I asked strangers at different stations if I could lend a hand.
It was easy to help out with anything and everything because there were clear instructions printed for each station. At the lettuce station, I knew to fill chopped lettuce into aluminum bins. At the cheese station, I knew to store the cheese with ice to keep it fresh. As someone who has volunteered with many different organizations, I appreciated the difference it made when volunteer instructions were clear and planned ahead of time.
By the end of that second day, I realized that I was about halfway through my summer in Austin, and I didn't feel so lonely anymore. Passion Missions gave me the opportunity to work with others to contribute to our mutual community, to connect with people in a new place, and to feel at home in a new city. It helped me learn what it means to love others - and to feel loved - through service.