How does one talk about an experience that changed your life? I guess I’ll start off with explaining a little bit of who I was a year ago. Most of my days were spent selfishly. I’d wake up, cook myself a plentiful breakfast, go to school, work and spend 4-5 hours a day on my phone or computer doing basically nothing. I always had the newest iPhone, most up to date clothes, and makeup. I would consume massive amounts of food and still complain that I was “starving”. All I thought about was hanging out with my friends, and pondering when my newest package from amazon would arrive. Little did I know that this would all change.
My best friend asked me If I wanted to go on a spring break vacation to the beautiful and sunny San Francisco. Immediately, I was on board. Fast forward to the best “vacation” of my life. I was always somewhat aware of people experiencing homelessness, and I assumed that they were all on drugs and wanted handouts. My mind quickly changed when we arrived in San Fran. On our first service day, we went to an organization named Glide, (a meal program in downtown San Francisco). Men and women in suits lined the wall in anticipation of their 12 pm meal. I was so confused because I didn’t understand how people that dressing better than I, were here to get free food.
One of the experiences that I will never forget is about a very handsome man named Rob. We met when our group was serving lunch at Glide, I approached him to ask him if he needed anything else because, at this organization, you take the time to wait on the unfortunate, to make them feel like they are having a pleasant meal. So, we got to talking. I was obviously interested because he was very handsome, and dressed a little punk, like myself. He told me that he had three jobs, and shared a room with 6 other people. One room. Six people. He had to come to Glide every day for lunch and dinner because his three jobs still didn’t provide enough income for his rent. In San Fran, there is no regulation of rent. You could be paying 1000$ for a room and the next year they can charge you 1500$ monthly with no notice. We only talked for about 15 minutes because we had so many people to serve. He asked me If I could get him some socks and a razor. I was more than happy to.
Often, I think that we take everything for granted. This Alternative Spring Break taught me that I need to keep in mind there are so many others out there that don’t have socks, food, or somewhere warm to lay their heads. Rob was very fortunate to have a home, He told me that rent for a 2-bedroom apartment with no bathroom (bathrooms are often located in the hall, one per floor) went for 3,500-4,000 dollars a month. Alternative spring breaks changed my life. Nowadays I want to devote all my time to helping others, and as a plus, I am now leading a break to San Diego exploring Immigration. I am beyond honored to have this opportunity, and I strongly suggest to anyone who feels as if they are flopping around, not knowing what path to take, to go on the best “vacation” of their life.
Talisa Fettis is a SLiCE Ambassador, Civically Engaged Scholar and co-leader for the Alternative Spring Break San Diego trip for 2017.