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Simple Thanks

Guest Blogger: John Harris
Special Events Associate at Friendship Place & Founder of Authentic Reflection

When you wake up in the morning with your stomach hurting from hunger in a pitch black windowless room, you still have a lot to be thankful for. At least I do. I have every reason to walk out of that basement apartment every morning with my head high and my heart open. I have my health. I have my smile. And most of all, I have the privilege of doing impactful work for an organization rebuilding lives every day.

It’s easy to become consumed with first world problems in a society that typically measures success by the number of commas in your bank account. It’s easy to question why you chose to do AmeriCorps when your friends post pictures of three course meals, while you brag over your newfound talent as a Ramen Noodle chef.

You watch and you congratulate as they buy new cars. You listen to them complain about their annoying bosses or how they miss the college life. You listen and nod as they crack jokes about your shortcomings and “life of poverty.” Then you laugh, smile, and shake your head.

There’s no course in college on how to measure self-worth. It’s just one of those lessons life teaches you in its day-to-day classroom. I learned from Mr. Terry Snead that every day is “The best day of my life,” and when that’s coupled with the saying, “It’s the simple things in life that make life worth living,” this life thing becomes pretty easy. I just live moment to moment. There is nothing more significant at any point in time than the moment in which you live.

I survive off of my AmeriCorps living allowance, but I live off of the smiles I cause and memories I create. Those are my luxuries. There’s no amount of money I could be paid to replace the memory of dancing for five hours with over 700 kids and teachers or feeling as though I was Terry Snead’s hype man in a room full of French-speaking middle school students. It was all in the name of helping the homeless. We had fun, but most of all we educated and gathered support to continue to help those in need.

I found that I’d often end up talking to youth about how working as the Special Events Associate at Friendship Place was my first “big boy job.” People watch you more than they listen to you, so I hope that I left a significant enough impression that they too may pursue careers of service.

My position as the Special Events Associate is my first staff position since graduating in May and I couldn’t have found a better place to begin my career. Friendship Place really looks out for me — from Tanya and Emily making sure I take care of myself, to Michael introducing me to his world at Potbelly’s, to Jean-Michel and Geoff advising me on how to advocate and Ben giving me those eager high fives. I am thankful to be able to work for such a great organization and for them having the confidence in me to go out and work on their behalf for the Help the Homeless program. It’s been great and I look forward to what’s to come.

Your Donation Helps End Homelessness!

Your support for Friendship Place has a lasting impact. In 2023, our programs ended or prevented homelessness for 4,993 people, including 1,507 children in families and 670 veterans. We empowered 167 people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to get jobs through innovative, state-of-the-art job placement services. Make a donation today in support of our work to end homelessness. Questions? Please feel free to call our fundraising office, 202.957.7834.

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