Every need has a name, every name has a story

This article was published in my college newspaper. It’s called “Serving the City with Kamikaze Kindness.”

Some local teenagers liked our free hugs idea so much, they decided to do it themselves!

Some local teenagers liked our free hugs idea so much, they decided to do it themselves!

“My name is Robyn. I am a volunteer. I need to make a difference.” For seven days, in Brussels, Belgium, I wore a blue t-shirt with these very words on it. Myself and over one hundred other human beings were part of a phenomenon that is sweeping the world. It’s called Serve the City (STC).

Started in 2005 by missionaries of Christian Associates International in Brussels, Serve the City is a non-profit organization that seeks to meet human needs by reaching out to the cities of the world. Now, in 2009, STC programs are active in over 40 cities, including Amsterdam, Netherlands and Montevideo, Uruguay.

Officially unaffiliated with any one church, Serve the City is its own entity, where people of all kinds of beliefs and backgrounds come to serve alongside one another with one common purpose – to make the world a better place.

So what does it mean to Serve the City? Well, in Brussels, STC is all about crossing lines. Lines exist between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, but they also exist in our own lives. There are lines of fear, comfort, and security, lines of prejudice, judgment, and stereotypes. In order to cross the line between the rich and the poor, we must first cross our own lines and reach out into the world around us.

Out of thirty different STC projects, my team and I signed up for Kamikaze Kindness, a random acts of kindness team with a simple motto: “Let’s make love normal.” Kamikaze Kindness is active in Brussels throughout the year and strives to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Notable activities include handing out flowers and free hugs to passersby and cleaning up sidewalks and parks.

Two STC volunteers wash the hands and feet of the homeless.

Two STC volunteers wash the hands and feet of the homeless.

The main guideline of the Kindness team is that if you see a need, you fill it. If you see trash on the street, you pick it up. If you see a homeless person, you stop and talk to them, offering them food, water, and a hug. Smile at everyone you pass and leave an impression. This was one of the least structured projects at STC because the Kamikaze leaders wanted to be free to change plans or to stop everything just to help one person.

This open attitude was what led us to an abandoned building seven stories high filled with 420 squatters, or refugees without Belgian citizenship driven into hiding as they wait for regularization papers. Another STC project had accidentally stumbled upon this building the day before, but the team members were unable to meet the refugees’ needs because of the project’s time schedule. The task, then, was given to Kamikaze Kindness, and we eagerly took on the need.

Our task was simple: bring them water, give them flowers, and just spend the day with them. It was tempting to think of this task as going to serve those “less fortunate,” as if we were reaching down, but one of the goals of Serve the City is to make people realize that we all have needs, and by recognizing that fact, we can better serve each other. By the end of our experience, we had reached out, not down, and the refugees had reached out to us, and we stood on equal ground.

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Lines were crossed this summer, and I feel privileged to have been a part of it. But the lines that exist in Brussels also exist right here in Maryland. My team and others are working on establishing a Serve the City Baltimore, but if STC has taught me anything, it’s that serving should be a part of my everyday life. I don’t have to be a part of the Kamikaze Kindness team to meet a need when I see it.

So I ask you, who are you? What do you need? What lines do you need to cross? And will you join me in making love normal?

Interested in serving or just want to learn more about Serve the City? For more information, visit http://www.servethecity.be or contact me!

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The women from Morocco found out it was my birthday, and they decided to celebrate and teach us to dance!

There’s actually a Serve the City day Saturday, October 3! I have a prior commitment, unfortunately, but you should check it out! http://www.servegreaterbaltimore.org/

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2 thoughts on “Every need has a name, every name has a story

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