At the Genesis Women’s Shelter Thrift Shop in Dallas

An update from Danielle, a junior majoring in Spanish and the SMU Alternative Breaks student director who served as a site leader in Dallas:

“Beep, beep, beep, beep.” I sluggishly rolled over in my bed at 7 a.m. Saturday to silence my dinging alarm. I ate breakfast and prepared to meet my Fall Alternative Break participants outside Hughes-Trigg Student Center; we were going to Genesis Women’s Shelter to prepare a pancake breakfast for the women and children.

Over Fall Break, we immersed ourselves in the social issue of domestic violence by volunteering at the Genesis Thrift Store, touring and volunteering at the shelter, and participating in an educational seminar. This past Saturday, our group decided to volunteer at the shelter again to continue the great work and learning experiences that we had over break. On Saturday, we arrived at the shelter just after 8, and we all jumped in to work as if we were there every Saturday. “Where’s the bowl?” “Start heating up the pans!” “Arrange the toppings!” There were only a few women chatting at the breakfast tables when we started cooking in the kitchen; they quickly realized why we had come and their appreciation was evident.

We made plain pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, pancakes with sprinkles, and even pancakes in the shapes of snowmen for the kids in light of Saturday’s frigid weather and winter storm warnings. The faces of the children were entirely covered in chocolate and maple syrup, and their excitement about this special treat was uncontainable. It seems that on the weekends, a normal breakfast at the shelter consists of cereal, muffins, granola, and coffee; so hot breakfast, especially with chocolate, is a very special treat.

After all of the women and children were on a sugar high and could not squeeze anything else in their stomachs, they began to disperse to start their days. One lady, however, sat while her young daughter was diligently trying to devour the pancake in one bite. The woman and I started talking, and before I knew it, I was sitting at the table having a conversation with her while the rest of my group worked in the kitchen. She asked me about myself, SMU, and where I am from. She mentioned that she used to volunteer in shelters too and she really hoped that we would come back soon.

One of her comments in particular, though, has crossed my mind every day for the last week; she thoughtfully said, “Regardless of the situation you’re in, you can still do something to help others.” Given the fact that this woman and her child are at Genesis because she does not have a safe place to go or the means to escape her abuser, but yet she still continues to think about the wellbeing of others, truly amazes me. As our holiday season continues, I think this woman brings a perspective that many of us should really consider. “Don’t waste your time thinking about what you don’t have; think about what you do have.”