Winter Writing Contest - 2016
During the winter of 2016, GLI held a writing contest to encourage GLI members to share who and what they were grateful for. The prompt asked writers to share about who they were thankful for, or about a holiday tradition that was special to them. Out of all the entries received, GLI core members selected the three best pieces. The writers were awarded certificates and prizes at the College Forum. Third place went to Shannon Yan, who wrote a piece about participating in San Francisco City Impact. Second place went to Daphne Yan, who wrote a poem about her Christmas experience. Finally, the first place award went to Maggie Zhang, who wrote a story about how a tradition between her and her best friend arose. Their pieces are attached below. We, the GLI team, would like to thank everyone who wrote a piece, and encourage everyone to continue writing and expressing themselves.
For a teenager living in a city as privileged as Pleasanton, I tend to take a lot of things for granted. As a kid I, as hopefully some other kids, would look at my presents and complain about what I got, or complain about wanting more. As I grew older, I realized that as cliché as it is, the holiday season is about giving, not receiving. Nothing can really beat the lightheartedness that consumes you when you see the look of happiness on someone's face after you give them something that they enjoy. As I've grown older, I've also realized that gifts don't necessarily have to even be tangible, much less bought. The best gift that I've ever received during the holiday season, and the gift that has stuck with me the most, is the gift of true friendship.
About three years ago, my best friend moved to Texas. At that point in my life, I wasn't someone who was good at making friends or keeping close friendships, so hearing that my best friend was moving blighted my eleven-year-old heart inside and out. The one person that I could always go to lived less than five miles away from me and now she was moving to a place over 1,500 miles away from me. A while into her move, my worst nightmare happened. Considering the distance between us, we had kept in pretty good touch. We had weekly FaceTime calls to talk about what happened during the week and periodically wrote letters. However, a few months into her move, we started drifting apart. Our FaceTime calls got shorter and less frequent and our letter-writing stopped. Every time we did FaceTime, it was as if we were trying to prove something to each other, as if we were trying to prove that we were living a pretty great life without each other. This ended up in us getting into a pretty big fight, and not speaking to each other for a while. I thought that she had forgotten about me, that I had lost her as a best friend, and I would see pictures that she posted on social medias and think "I guess she's using all her time on her new friends and there's no place in her life for me anymore." Thinking about it now, she probably thought the exact same of me. Truthfully, we were just so busy and with a two-hour time difference we didn't have enough free time to even think about making time for each other.
Around the holiday season, I decided to break the whole "not speaking" thing and call her up. We talked, and I realized something really important. I realized that if we truly are best friends, how much we talk shouldn't have a say in how close we are as friends, as long we keep each other in our hearts. That holiday season, I received the best gift I could ever ask for. This wasn't a gift that anyone could give me, and it definitely wasn't a gift that could be bought. It was something that both of us had to put our hearts together to create- the gift of true friendship. I got my best friend back, and I got the realization that no matter what gets in our way, whether it be miles or other people, she'll always be my best friend. Today, two years later, she is still living in Texas, 1,500 miles away from me. We FaceTime once a month, if that, and we don't write letters to each other. But the gift that I received that holiday season is something that is still with me. I still call her my best friend, and we have a stronger bond than ever.
The misfortune that falls upon others,
Is not what you always expect.
You think they just are a little poor,
But their lives are even more wrecked.
They might be on a drug addiction,
Or even have taken their own life,
They might have been badly abused,
Or never had a husband or wife.
Some people had an open mind,
And thought it was better now than never,
They started San Francisco City Impact,
And changed many lives forever.
Every year, when the weather gets cold,
We go to the Tenderloin District,
Those in need are under our care,
And we help them be optimistic.
Some pack food, a full Christmas dinner,
To hand out to everyone,
As they receive their choice of food,
They feel as though they’re not shunned.
The warm feeling that is returned,
When helping those in need,
Is almost enough of a Christmas gift itself,
It helps us take more heed.
The glorious feeling that comes in package,
With being at City Impact here,
Is my most favorite feeling in the world,
So I’m sure I will come back next year!
The misfortune that falls upon others,
Is not what you always expect,
But the choice to help others and make a change,
Is a choice that we can select.
Nearly every year, my family and I participate in the Christmas Day Outreach of the San Francisco City Impact with Global Leadership Initiative, an organization that reaches out to help the impoverished citizens of San Francisco.
Its area a little under a square kilometer, the Tenderloin District is home to over 35,000 residents, with around 26% of the people living under the poverty level. On average, three major crimes occur there in the 500-block neighborhood every hour. SF City Impact is a non-profit, volunteer-based Christian organization striving to restore this destitute district by running many programs such as holiday outreaches to achieve the neighborhood’s various needs.
The general idea of the the Christmas Day Outreach is to enlist volunteers who would help and serve the city. Some of the activities including making and delivering hot meals (Christmas lunch and dinner), distributing toys, and hosting a Christmas clothing giveaway for those in need.
Most of the Global Leadership Initiative participants worked in meal preparation or delivery. Working together as a team, the volunteers formed assembly lines to put together and package the meal consisting of bread, meat, salad or vegetables, mashed potatoes, fruit, and cookies. I worked in meal prep myself adding the cookies into each meal. Even though each meal package was supposed to contain two cookies, I often added more if I saw that the piece of bread or serving of meat added was particularly small. The metaphor clicked in my mind on the way back on the BART.
As the supplies dwindled down and most meals were packaged and delivered, a couple members of Global Leadership Initiative went over to assist at the clothing giveaway event where those in need got to pick out clothes that were generously donated by the citizens of San Francisco. That’s what affected me the most during City Impact. For people walking by, the people at the clothing giveaway looks as if they’re guiding the shoppers through and helping them pick out five articles of clothing. Actually working in the giveaway, however, we discovered a thick woven tapestry of intricately spun tales, of lost childhoods, struggles, and regrets. Interacting with the residence of the Tenderloin District and learning about their lives while helping them through the “shop” made me view the world in another person’s perspective. Many of the seniors I talked to had a troubled childhood—neglectant parents, lots of moving around, little to no education, grew up not knowing what to do with their lives, vitality and life wasted after bad decisions, and many many regrets. However, every single one of those people were beautiful, full of heart and soul, and so honest. I became aware of how privileged I am: I live in a nice neighborhood where crime doesn’t occur often, I’m receiving a good education, I get to pick what clothes I wear, I have money to spend, and most importantly, I’m given many opportunities to achieve and I am aware that I can make an impact in this world. Working at the clothing giveaway in City Impact changed my perspective on my world and made me realize how much I have to be grateful for and more importantly, even though I have so much more things than them, I am still not above them.
In the end, the Global Leadership Members were left tired, but content. The 300+ volunteers of the Christmas Day Outreach together packaged and delivered over 4,000 meals and delivered hundreds of toys for the poverty-stricken of the Tenderloin district. However, the people we helped weren’t the only ones who benefited. I felt like a changed person through this experience, I was humbled and I started seeing things different. The Christmas Day Outreach of the SF City Impact was a great way to learn about and spread the true holiday spirit: giving back and serving our community.