By Zoe Feder, Senior – Congregation Beth Israel, Austin
High school makes my availability relatively difficult to come by. There’s always something going on- a performance, a game, homework, or simply the need for sleep. All of these factors have kept me from being able to fully participate in the incredible Jewish activities going on around me. Luckily, I was able to go to March on Austin 2015 with Greene Family Camp. I knew before I joined the group that I missed Greene Family Camp, my summer home. Through the year (the non-camp time), I always missed GFC and not being able to be a camper anymore. Being free to go to a GFC year-round event filled the space in my heart left for a “camp” Jewish community.
Our packed 24-hour weekend event in Austin, TX didn’t leave much time for things that didn’t matter. From the speakers we heard, and the places we visited, everything felt important to me. We got to hear from an advocate from the Capital Area Food Bank, toured the Urban Roots sustainable farm, and went to the State Capitol to hear the story of a state representative and a representative from MAZON (A Jewish Response to Hunger), all in one day! We looked at the policies and more administrative side to hunger. Then, Saturday night, we prepared lunch bags to hand out to those afflicted by food insecurity.
Sunday morning was hands down my favorite part of March on Austin. On our seemingly huge charter buses took us to downtown Austin, we passed ARCH, (The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless). It’s closed on Sundays which causes its regular clients to congregate around it, but receive no help from its soup kitchen or its case management program (Front Steps) as they would have access to any other day. Our buses took us under the 7th Street Bridge. The other part of the parking lot was teeming with people- more than a hundred people dealing with homelessness were lined up in front of one table. The one table set up was handing out fruit, desserts and coffee to anyone who needed it. Our group brought our big containers filled with the one hundred lunch bags we had made the night before. About five minutes after we handed out the first bag, they were all gone.
I went with another girl in our group to help out at the table that was already set up. We handed out cookies, cake, and doughnuts to the many people in line. It was so amazing to be a part of this experience. I’ve done projects that benefit the homeless population in the past, but they haven’t had this human connection that our March on Austin group got to experience.
It is one thing to talk about hunger, or to sort cans at a Food Bank- and those are very important things to do, but seeing someone’s face, seeing how different hunger and homelessness can look from person to person, left a huge impact on me.
One out of every nine people in the world do not get enough to eat. And so we, the other eight people, have to do what we can to help them. Personally, I’m going to go back to the 7th Street Bridge whenever I have the chance to do so, and try to meet and connect with more people! Even though there isn’t too much time to spare in any one person’s schedule- use whatever time you have to help those around you. It doesn’t take that much effort on your part to make someone’s day significantly better.