There are less than two months before this crazy journey finally takes off and I still can’t wrap my head around exactly what I signed up for.
Every time I think about what it’s going to be like — waking up with sore legs in a different city every day, devouring more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than I can comprehend — I don’t know whether to feel insanely excited or scared out of my wits. At the moment, it’s both, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less sure about doing this.
Biking across the country for charity is an insane idea. When I first heard about it, I had trouble thinking of reasons not to sign myself up. What I loved about the idea wasn’t just the biking to Oregon part (although that did sound pretty incredible as it is) but the fact that I would be biking to Oregon for a purpose —- one that would extend far beyond my own life and into my community. Committing to a two-month-long adventure for thrills is one thing, but doing it for the purpose of making a lasting impact is another.
Volunteering at Elijah’s Promise has been more eye-opening to me than I had expected. My usual duties are anything but glamorous — if I’m not preparing and serving food, I’m wiping tables, washing dishes, or sweeping the floor. But what really makes volunteering such an enriching experience is hearing the stories of the other volunteers and the people we serve at the kitchen. On one of my first shifts at Elijah’s, I spoke to a woman who told me she had graduated with a degree in Psychology from Rutgers but was now homeless — kicked out of an apartment she was renting and told she had 30 minutes to pack up and leave. Her father passed away the same year and her brother was recently drugged and murdered in a church basement. She choked back a few sobs halfway through the conversation and told me that she was at a total loss for what to do. She said she was considerably privileged for most of her life; she was used to giving and having enough to give. Now she was in a situation where she had no choice but to rely on the help of others, and she didn’t know how to ask for it.
Stories like these really opened my eyes to the reality of poverty in New Brunswick. Here I am, attending a university where my biggest struggles involve midterm papers and waking up on time for class, while there are people like the woman I met whose struggles so exceed my own that they are almost incomprehensible to me. But hearing first-hand about how she was dealing with her situation made it really digestible. I was able to sympathize with her, relate to her like I would any other human being, and understand the reality of poverty in general. It made me proud to think that through The Dream Project, I was doing a lot to help people like this woman I met, who are just as much a part of the community as I am.
All in all, I’m really excited to embark on this crazy journey over the summer for a cause I really care about. I just hope I won’t be sick of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the end of it!