Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day Two: Two hour lunch breaks should be a rule

Day two of Destination: Service, Houston chapter, started off at 9:00 AM when we arrived at Goodwill for breakfast. While enjoying breakfast tacos and orange juice we chatted with some of the directors about Southwestern, sports, and the fine art of friendly teasing. For an interesting note on how many thin threads of connection intertwine between us all, a friend of one of the directors lives just down the road from me!

We then decided on who would be doing what and split up to start our respective jobs of the day. Rebecca set off to help filing different information for HR, Kelly and Maria headed back to the Swain center to work alongside the employees with various contract tasks, Vanessa assisted the accounting department by scanning old files, and I joined an employee, Perry, in calling various local Goodwill stores to gather their floor inventories. While I didn't know exactly what I was doing, I had a great time hanging out with Perry and learning a little more about the logistics of Goodwill's day-to-day operation. I enjoyed meeting all of the people who filtered through Perry's office and talking to another employee who told me a bit of his story. My conversation hinted at what Steve would later discuss, the fact that everyone has a story, and while no two stories repeat, each one shapes us to become who we are and who we will become.

Around 11:30, we went to Steve's office where Jason's Deli greeted us once again for lunch. The food was delicious but the two hour conversation that followed trumped the meal by far. We learned more about Steve life with Goodwill and his life as a person, both of which affect and inform the other. Not only did I learn more about Steve, but I learned a great deal about my fellow students and Maria. Steve asked difficult, but very informative, questions, many of which I can't answer yet, like what we will be doing in five years. I honestly have no clue, but it will no doubt involve helping people! That fact was probably evident from my answer to his first question, which addressed each of our passions. Through that question, we discussed social justice, spirituality, people and peace.

After two hours of scintillating and inspiring conversation, we realized that we should probably get back to work! I spent the rest of the day in the Swain center with Maria and two delightful women preparing doggy toothpaste to be packaged. We had to wear hairnets, but even that couldn't detract from the amazing experience I had working there. The Swain center provides contract work for people with more severe barriers to employment, giving them the ability to have a purpose and develop a sense of self worth. Most of the employees there work in group homes and come each day to the Goodwill center, where they do everything from package dried shrimp to cut ferret diapers (seriously!). Also, if you ever buy Texas Fire Crackers in Specs, the good people at Goodwill packaged them! While Rebecca and Vanessa kept their same jobs, Kelly moved to the lobby where she learned to run the switchboard from an amazing woman named Linda. We had a wonderfully rewarding and educational first full day at Goodwill!

After a little down time at the church, we went to a 59 Diner where we enjoyed excellent food and a fascinating waiter. Angel had tatoos covering his arms and when we asked about them, he informed us that he did each of them himself, proving that he was both a very talented artist and ambidextrous! And he gave us three milkshakes on the house, which was very kind! Heading back to the church for the night we swung by the Galleria which was packed for St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

It was wonderful to arrive back at the church and relax, if you can call Catch Phrase relaxing. The game slowly evolved to conversation and I was delighted to simply talk and learn more about the members of the group. Each person here has a truly loving heart and I can already tell that this week will only get better!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day One: Introductions and First Impressions

After getting up at 6:00 AM, I drove from Dripping Springs to Georgetown, making great time and getting to the McCombs parking lot right on time. We packed up all of the vans and greeting the two other groups, Rebecca, Kelly, Vanessa, Maria, and I headed out. The drive seemed ridiculously short, but part of that could have been due to the fact that I sat mesmerized by the fog that blanketed the countryside bordering Hwy. 290. The rising sun and glistening mist turned every driveway and pasture into an enchanted adventure just waiting to happen, so it killed me that I couldn't get out and take pictures, but I tried my best, as you can see from the photos I posted!

We arrived at the Memorial United Methodist Church in Houston around 11:30 and settled in upstairs in the youth rooms. The church is huge and very well equipped, with raquetball courts and a nature trail that we fully intend to explore sometime this week! After eating lunch at Jason's Deli we went to the Goodwill headquarters where we met Steve, a Southwestern alum, and other Goodwill employees. Steve told us some quite interesting stories about his time at SU, especially concerning the president of the university at the time. I yawned at one point during the meeting and subsequently the rest of the group, including the Goodwill directors, teased me about it the entire time.

None of us knew much about Goodwill, except that it was a great place to both donate goods and shop, but the more we learned, the more we became excited about the prospect of helping such a wonderful organization. It turns out that Goodwill was started at the turn of the century in Boston when a Methodist minister forsook his prominent, wealthy congregation to start preaching to the dregs of the city. He desperately wanted to help the people he met there, but he discovered that giving people handouts only served to support their addictions. Instead of giving handouts he devised a system to help people learn to better themselves through the simple power of work, the same sentiment which is reflected in the Goodwill of today, though on a much larger scale.

Our initial tour of the Goodwill facility was very enjoyable, as we learned a great deal about the operation of both the headquarters and individual stores. The place is a little cramped and convoluted, but they make do with the space they have in ingenious ways. Of course, I would probably still become helplessly lost if left to my own devices, but it was a very enlightening tour! Everyone we met along the way greeted us warmly, and while I will only remember a few of the countless names I learned, each friendly face added to the positive experience that made up my first impression of the Goodwill where we will be spending the week!

To end the day, we relaxed at the church for a bit before going to the Hunan Emperor down the street. Four out of the five of us got fried rice- luckily, it was delicious! A great meal and great conversation ended a wonderful first day for Destination: Service in Houston.