“When I first started volunteering, I was scared and nervous. I came to support my husband, it was his thing, and I always try to be there for him.”
Tyra, a Maryland woman who teaches in Virginia and volunteers in DC, spoke candidly with us this past Saturday afternoon when we came across her and her family volunteering at Franklin Park with friends from their church, Matthews Memorial Baptist. They were serving soup (“homemade from scratch!”) and came with toiletry bags and some extra clothes, too. She and her husband, Minister Moe, along with their teenage daughter and elementary school-aged son, were smiling, laughing, and chatting with whomever came up to their table.
“We all a one-page act away from being right here,” Minister Moe said, gesturing around the park. “If we don’t give back, we’re living a lie.”
Their son ran up to Minister Moe and hugged his leg as we talked, and the two shared a smile and side-hug. “I’m trying to teach them young to give back, to be aware of life out here, and to love serving. We are teaching them to have compassion and especially, to see everyone.”
“I want my kids to see this,” Tyra said, shrugging lightly when I asked her about the choice to bring their children along with them. “I want them to understand what they have, to not be afraid like I was. They need to be thankful for what they have, and it helps them see that. They ask good questions, and they learn. They like being out here.”
She glanced over to where their daughter stood behind the table, talking easily with a woman who had come up for a bag of toiletries, and the warmth of her friendliness could be felt even a few steps back where we stood. “She tries to get her friends to come join her out here. Maybe sometime they will,” Trya notes, pride rimming her voice and eyes.
“You said you were scared when you first started coming out here?”
“Yes, I was. But it’s such a blessing. I just channel that nervousness into helping, into serving and seeing the people who come over to us.“
“I’ve learned a lot. I’m not scared anymore. I found out sometimes the people experiencing homelessness, they just need to see us, they need us to just speak with them. They just want to have a conversation, and I can do that.”
I ask Minister Moe how he came to be involved. He nods to another minister from their church who is out with them and says, “Lisa asked me one day, ‘Do you want to do this partnership with me?’ I did, so we mixed the young adults and the youth together and we volunteer like this. We also do hot breakfasts at the shelter in SE every quarter. All you can eat.”
"I grew up in a low income house right here in DC. This is my calling. Jesus, he was there—he was there ‘for the least of these.’ So I want to be, too. It’s a blessing.”
Their son comes bounding around again, his exuberance and comfortableness so catching I have to ask him, “What’s your favorite thing here?”
We look over where a few people are sorting through clothes, picking pieces to take away with them. One woman bending over the table sports a sweatshirt with the slogan “Til no one is hungry” across the back.
“It’s a calling. But it’s a calling we all can answer,” Minister Moe muses as we watch their son race back to the soup table.
Guest Writer: Heather Hill
Heather Hill is the Assistant Manager of donor acquisition & digital fundraising at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is a graduate of Houghton College, and Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the Human Rights Co-Chair of the United Nations Association of the National Capitol Area, and you can find her performance reviews on MD Theatre Guide.