January 6, 2015

January 6, 2015

"Toxic, smog, pollution, exhaustion, and fear" were the first words that were withdrawn from my vocabulary bank as I arrived closer towards the Union Mission in Downtown Los Angeles. "No hope, lost of humanity, and recovery" were the words figuratively appeared in each individual's eyes. Streets were filled with dozens on "skid row" with residents clustered and camped on the streets under the clear blue skies. We slowly descended into the parking lot of the Union Rescue Mission building. Ernie, the most gracious and hospitable security guard, escorted us in the direction of the parking lot and elevator to the ground level. I'll be honest, I was a bit excited to dedicate my time and service, but as soon as we stepped foot into the elevator, my heart drastically dropped to the bottom of my toes. Hairs suddenly spiked from my arms and fingers began to shake tremendously. Second person the crew we encountered today was Mike. Mike quickly gave us a 5 minute tour around the Union Rescue Building. We set foot into a huge chapel where residents are able to optionally digest, listen, and celebrate the wonderful Word of God. The room was nothing compared to an elegant and beautiful cathedral, yet it was simple and filled with love. Since majority of our time was spent admiring the beauty of the chapel, our 5 minutes flew quickly and we were escorted to the underground basement of the Union Rescue Building. Allen, the brilliant, intelligent, and happiest man I have ever met, gave us quick and clean jobs. Who knew we would be doing work in the basement right? Some of us either fence weaved, painted, or mantle a gate. My task was to weave the fence which was probably the easiest job, but it helped finish a project that Allen and the staff had started earlier. Fence weaving is as simple as A-B-C and 1-2-3. We take a strand of the weave, start from the bottom, gently loop and cross between each hole in the fence, and top it off with a gold button. From a distance, it dazzled like green coconut leaves weaved over a fence which looks alluring and attractive! To others it may seem like a simple and easy job, but in reality we helped saved a lot of time and sweat for Allen and his colleagues. Remember, there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.

'Twas an hour before dinner. The sun finally set aside its pride and descended onto the other side of the world. Mr. Moon triumphed and set foot on the pedestal in night sky. The night was finally awaken, but the men and women who dedicated their time and service were coming to an end. Bright yellow Intel was given to each member of the LA Immersion crew. Ema Virchell, a University of Dayton undergraduate student, asked us to establish a retreat for her 7th and 8th grade students. "What?" "Are you kidding me?", I asked myself cluelessly. "I'm only a Freshman and only attended two retreats!", I whispered to myself. "Yes" yelled in the distance. I don't want to discuss what events we planned, so I'm going to save that for the next bloggers to discuss. (:

"Dinner time in the PLACE home!" was all I was chanting in my mind as we drove to our destination. My body was tired yet craving any mushy and gooey "ono" food. Ono means delicious in Hawaiian, if you didn't know. We were pleasantly greeted by our hostess Ms. Ema. When we stepped foot in the house, we were instantly amazed of the setup and warm welcoming aurora of the house. Everyone grabbed the closest seat next to them. Unfortunately, my colleague Adam and I were stuck at the kids table, but who cares? I'm just blessed and glad to be here and experiencing so much at my age. We sat at the table and I looked the garden salad right in the eye. "No don't eat me" were the words the garden salad was telepathically saying to me. Did I care? Nah! The garden salad screamed for mercy while I crunched and munched on its head, feet, and toes. My next victim was the succulent spaghetti that was waiting for its final last words. Alongside the spaghetti were vegetables and toasted bread, but spaghetti was the only victim I wanted to demolish. You know what goes great with spaghetti? Sriracha and cheese as toppings. I can eat spaghetti noodles and sriracha for days. At the end of dinner we gathered, with the PLACE Corp members, at the table to live in the moment and reflect on our experiences. What I shared to the group came entirely from my heart and soul. 

"I'm grateful and blessed for the experience and opportunities I am given in the past 18 years. I am blessed for sitting at a table enjoying a delicious meal under a roof with loving friends. I am blessed for sleeping on a bed, having a roof over my head, wearing clean clothes, covering my feet with shoes, eating food everyday, making new friends, going to college, having loving friend and family who care for me, and waking up each day to serve better myself. This experience has helped me realize injustice and poverty is occurring outside of our doors. We see it on T.V., in books, magazines, and in the news, but how often are we able to witness it in front of us with our very own eyes? It is a life changing experience for me and I hope it's a life changing experience for everyone else. I admire the effort and work Union Rescue Mission does for (not the homeless, because I hate using and hearing that word) people, persons without food, water, and shelter. I wish I had the money and the power to establish a program or organization that eliminates homelessness quick and easily in minutes. If I had the cure for homelessness, I would first inject it into my home in Guam. Guam's population of homelessness is nothing compared to Los Angeles or Hawaii, but I want to start one place at a time. Sometimes everyone, including myself, forget how lucky and blessed we are in this life that God has given us. I'm ashamed to be content at life when another person is struggling to pay their bills, feed their children, or provide their children with the best. If I had one wish, I would eliminate the concept/word homeless. I would want every person who doesn't have food, water, or shelter, to live in a beautiful home with a well paying job, but...it's life. Only thing left to do is try, try, try, and keep trying until this pandemic of "homelessness" is cured." 

Stefan Taitano. #ChaminadeUniversity


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