Youth Mission Trip blog #3

Here’s how you know a group of teenagers is both tired and comfortable with each other: at the end of a long day of service and experiential activities, instead of going for a walk through Chinatown, they opt to head back to home base to play board games and hit the hay early.

We had another productive day – this morning we worked at the San Francisco Food Bank sorting oranges (again – tired of oranges!) and packaging oats from enormous bales into exactly-one-pound-not-an-ounce-more packs. This afternoon we drove to the Tenderloin where we were divided into two groups, instructed to assume typical homeless personas (Vietnam vet, single mother, teen runaway), and given a set of tasks. We had to feed our group and at least one stranger on an $8 budget, find housing and food resources, identify possibly employment, and engage people we met with a series of questions about the city – its best aspects and biggest problems. It took each group 2 hours and several miles to reach the same conclusion that good old peanut butter sandwiches were our best bet (oh, and .26 worth of damaged peaches from the farmer’s market for dessert). The dollar store seemed like an option at first but we had no dishes or heat. Even fast food is expensive (not to mention unhealthy). We briefly considered 10 lbs of fruit but decided that it mightn’t be the best plan for our bellies. ‘Nuff said.

We hit the public library and city hall to research our food and shelter options and were dismayed to find that with teen kids (boys, in particular) our family housing options were quite limited. Guys like ours would likely have had to go, alone, to the men’s shelter- a scary thought indeed.

Our interviews of the locals were well received and interesting, and each group was able to distribute half of its sandwich stash to homeless and poor people we met on the street. It was challenging for this group of busy people to accomplish all tasks and then be stuck with no money, no cell phones, and no cars, for two more hours. A couple of the kids looked around at all the homeless folks sleeping on the plaza and followed suit. The pace of homeless life (from this brief glimpse) is very slow. We found it frustrating.

It was our free evening so we had dinner in North Beach, a delicious pasta feast. We’re back home, taking shower shifts and playing Monopoly.

I’m pleased to report that there have no differences of opinion, we are all well rested and gracious at all times. Heh.

Thank you for your messages of support, both email and text. We’ll read them all to the kids tonight before bed.