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two Plastic Chairs

Life has seemed to settle into some sort of rhythm the past couple weeks. Life here has become familiar and the new normal to me. While I still miss my family and friends back home, the people here have become great friends as well and I know I will miss them when I leave. It’s been great to get to know not only the people that I work with but also the people I’ve come in contact with through Good Works.

There have been a few here that have impacted my life especially. One is a couple that lives in Athens. They live in an apartment complex that is especially for those with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. We were contacted about them because there was going to be an inspection soon and if their apartment wasn’t clean they would be evicted. I took a middle school-aged group out to their home to clean things up for them doing what we call a Samaritan Project with Good Works.

While the filth that they were living in was a slight shock and a little repulsing and overwhelming, it was their lifestyle that hit me the most. They had 2 plastic chairs set up in their living room with a couple end tables around them and the whole time we were there cleaning they sat in those chairs, mostly silently. It broke my heart to think of them living this silent, seemingly meaningless way day after day. I would ask them questions and they’d answer them and talk with me. I think they enjoyed the company immensely and they asked if we would come back to visit them again. I was able to see my friends again delivering a Christmas meal to them. They were glad to see me again and weren’t as shy as the first time. They joked about making brownies just so I would come visit them.

This experience got me thinking a whole lot about how people end up in the situations and lifestyles that they do. I admit that before coming here and seeing situations like this with my own eyes I hadn’t necessarily thought very deeply about issues like this. I’ve come to realize though, that how you grow up and the resources and material items that are available to you shape a whole lot about you and the person you’re going to be or even have the chance of being. I grew up in a loving home where money was never really an issue. I have no memories of my parents stressing about how we were going to pay the bills or go to the grocery store that month. For the most part my dad has always been able to find work and support our family. I’ve always known that my parents love each other. Life has been fair to me and my family for the most part.

This is not the case for everyone and this is something I think all of us need to realize when relating to other people. People who are homeless are a prime example of this. I feel that there is an unspoken and sometimes spoken view that people become homeless as a result of bad decisions or drugs or criminal activity or negligence. While this is true in some cases, a whole lot of people find themselves in situations beyond their

control. Maybe a family member that they’ve been living with suddenly kicks them out or they lose their job and then soon after that their car breaks down. Perhaps someone in their family gets really sick and they’re left to pay hospital bills with a job that only pays minimum wage. All of these things and more limit immensely the opportunities available.

While someone’s circumstances aren’t an excuse for certain behavior, they do change people’s perspectives of life and the way they look at the world. I think this is key to bringing Jesus to those around us. If I expect everyone to be like me and to look at the world the way I do, what is that saying to people about Jesus? What if Jesus expected me to see the world the way he did before he would love me or let me spend eternity with him? I can tell you I wouldn’t be going to heaven if that was the case.

Kelsey Shelter, AI intern


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Lattice multiplication is a method used in many classrooms today to multiply large numbers using a grid. Similar to the traditional algorithmic method of multiplication, lattice breaks the problem into smaller steps to allow students to see each digit independently in an attempt to create fewer mistakes. When I was in seventh grade, I had no idea what lattice multiplication was. It wasn’t until I spent five years in college, graduated, and began helping a 12-year-old girl with her homework that I learned the world that is lattice multiplication.

I love math, and have always had an interest in the never-ending world that is numbers, theorems, and shapes. This interest started in high school and even became part of my major in college. So when I graduated from Wright State University last June with a degree in middle childhood education focusing in math and language arts, it was no surprise. As I moved to Athens, Ohio to work as an Americorps VISTA with Good Works, I wondered how this degree would play a part in this new chapter of my life. How would my experience in the world that is academia become important in a homeless shelter?

I met Kayla when she moved into the Timothy House with her mom and sister a little over four months ago. It was cold out and she seemed shy and not totally comfortable with her new “home.” She lived at the shelter for a month before I asked her if she needed help with homework, and everyday she said no. Moving to a new town is tough when you’re young and is often reflected through performance in the classroom. So everyday she would come home with her mom and sister, eat a snack, and perch on the couch to watch a movie.

I noticed she was getting bored with the movies so I asked her to play a game of Scrabble. She reluctantly said yes and we continued this for a week. During one of these games, we got into a conversation about school and homework and I brought up again how I would be more than happy to help. She finally agreed and went to get her backpack.

So the routine changed from “Finding Nemo” after school to Egyptian architecture and calculating percents. Kayla is gifted with an ability to learn and question ideas, such gifts, if not encouraged, can get lost. Kayla taught me a new way to multiply using lattice and also how to slowly build trust. I have time to give her, time to listen and time to build hope in her life. I see God through these homework sessions. I see God move when she tells me she has moved from a failing status to an A student in two months. I see God everyday laughing and playing through Kayla. I simply pray this progress shows Kayla that she can do things, that she is worth something, and she has much to offer.


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