J500 Media and the Environment

Sustaining Hope by jasonmer

My sophomore year in college had an inauspicious start—a bicycle, a backpack full of clothes, and fifty dollars to my name.  A father’s disdain for his son’s summer of excess provides the backdrop on a difficult lesson.  I spent a few weeks sleeping in parks, dodging police cars at night, and eating “dumpster burgers” when my money ran out.  It was strangely trivial at the time because I knew there was a quick and definite end in sight.  School would start soon, my tutoring job would begin, the work study in the metal/woods shop would be waiting for me, and everything would be O.K.  I had hope.

My Service-Learning experience shows that the Lawrence Community Shelter provides hope.

Through my own observations, hope comes in many forms at LCS.  Staff and volunteers provide hope by treating the homeless with compassion and sensitivity.  Hope comes in the form of successful case management; taking the “less” out of homeless.  Hope comes from community donations and volunteerism—they sustain LCS.

My Service-Learning experience also taught that volunteering is good for the volunteer.  Research consistently points to the benefits of volunteering on both physical and mental well being.

My Service-Learning experience demonstrates the impact of undertaking the small and seemingly insignificant.  For example, during a visit to the shelter I brought in a surplus of toiletries (i.e. shampoo, razors, soap, toothpaste, etc.).  Within the first few minutes of my visit the razors became the most valuable donation.  I almost left the razors at home because I thought of them as…inconsequential.

Social sustainability issues such as homelessness need an advocate.  Advocacy journalism serves many purposes but few more important than the social responsibility to humankind and the need for shelter.

The week of my college graduation I told my teacher thanks for bestowing an education to me.  My teacher replied, “Thank me in five years.  My success is defined by your inspiration to learn more.”  I haven’t forgotten that talk.  

Today, on the broader subject of sustainability (people, planet, profit), I have inspiration to learn more.

Jason Merckling


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