Written by Tori Levy
I went to high school with an immense amount of students (4,000 to be exact). And trust me, I was never the student who got a 36 on their ACT or participated in multiple varsity sports. However, I did find my way by volunteering every week at a different organization through my school.
One week I would play bingo with residents of Sunrise Nursing Home, the next week I would serve food at A Just Harvest for their community dinner. I did it all four years of high school, but stopped once I came to Oxford.
Even before I stepped on campus, words and abstract ideas like “major,” “job” and “career” jumbled through my mind although I still had four years to ponder over my future. I saw it as survival of the fittest and to get what you want — you have to beat people out. So I met weekly for clubs, attended lectures to boost my grades and applied to everything that I thought would improve my resume.
As I slowly became consumed in achieving the “perfect” adult life, my real priorities were left behind. I missed opportunities to connect with people and invest my time where it was needed most.
Sophomore year, I quit everything I wasn’t passionate about and dug into my community service roots. I still don’t have the same free time as I once did in high school, but I volunteer the third Wednesday of every month at St. Mary’s community dinner in Oxford.
The first time I went there, my arms were exhausted from all the food I brought it. Cars kept rolling up behind the church delivering food; one brought a dish with mac & cheese, another with grapes. One student even brought boxes of Insomnia Cookies. By the time it was 5:30, the dinner and desert tables were overflowing with food. I though absentmindedly that some of it might slip off.
Oxford residents flooded the room and greeted each other as they passed by like old friends. People were alone, with their significant other, or with their families. The ages ranged from toddlers to seniors, all of them waiting in line patiently for dinner to be served.
Dinner started off with a prayer. I’m Jewish, so I’m not familiar with Catholic prayer, but many of the people there were. At the end of the prayer, someone said “Lets eat!” and the feast began.
The community dinner comes together because residents of Oxford and Miami students take the time to either buy or cook food to provide meals for those in the area that are less fortunate. But it also provides volunteers more than the opportunity to bring and serve food. They also have the opportunity to grab a meal and eat with members of the community and get to know them. In a town like Oxford where students and community members rarely mingle despite being so close to one another, it was a refreshing experience.
The holidays remind people that if you’re lucky enough to live a good life, then it’s important to give back to the people who don’t have the same luxury.
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” – John Holmes