Baptism By Concrete

“crunch” “crackle” “crunch” my Brooks sneakers sunk into the snowy, frozen crust. Despite making everything more frigid, the snow was a relief from the grayscale of colors that is New York. I hadn’t seen a tree in miles. As a native North Carolinian, that was a bit maddening. This was a trip full of first time experiences for me. The largest cities I’ve been to are fifteen minutes across at most.

This city is different.

This is the city.  

The initial impression of New York made my jaw drop. It was larger than life. Every building was garnished with swirly, intricate trim. Some buildings had entrances large enough to accommodate giants. The architecture of the city inspired a feeling of nationalism. I felt proud of the American craftsmanship that erected those buildings.

 As awe-inspiring as the city was, it proved to be just as intimidating. The metro system seemed cryptic. Even after a full week of immersion I still wouldn’t be able to navigate. The complexity of the subway, coupled with the layout of the streets was a steep learning curve for many of us. The people of New York seemed to be a little bit daunting as well. The difference in dialect made communicating slightly difficult at first.

I didn’t hear anybody say “yall” one time.

In spite of this, we only had to spend a little bit of time with the natives before we were speaking the same language. The Yorkers defied the stereotypes, and showed us a warm, charasmatic, work-hard attitude.

For my group, (the herd) our main service assignment was to assist in the community kitchen of Harlem. I was really impressed by how well run the kitchen was. The food was prepared with care, and the staff was exceptionally passionate about their work. The meals they prepared would have rivaled many surrounding restaurants. We cut carrots, scrubbed spatulas, and packaged meals for the clients to eat when the kitchen was closed. The enormity of these tasks was toppled by the tenacity of the staff. It was a joy to serve alongside them.

I was also able to serve in the food bank, in the Bronx.

The food bank gave the same, hardworking impression I saw in the community kitchen. Energetic people, working hard at what they do because they want others to have a better life. Around fifty of us spent the afternoon sorting through crates of packaged food, sorting them into boxes. A majority of breakers felt this was the most impactful service project of the trip, because it allowed us to impact a high volume of people.

Overall, ASB was an incredibly unique experience. Despite the highs and lows of the trip, I wouldn’t have changed much about the way spring break went. I really felt like I was able to experience New York City, and make a difference while I was at it.