By Mohini Patel
When we are overwhelmed by school and work, we often do not see the bigger picture. At first, we may not realize when we are learning something invaluable that can bless people everyday in so many ways. We tend to dwell in our own selfishness instead of becoming active members of the community that sincerely and unconditionally gives to those in need.
My fellow nursing students and I had the opportunity to participate in “Pray It Forward,” an annual charity event held by American University of Health Sciences (AUHS) last December. I previously heard of this event before and was vaguely told by a fellow classmate that “it’s just passing out money to the poor.” However, as the day went on, I discovered that this community outreach event was much more complex and spiritually rewarding than what I had expected.
“Pray it Forward,” began in the afternoon, on our AUHS campus. The students and I were each given a stack of flyers and $60 worth of five-dollar bills from Pastor Gregory Johnson, the Co-Founder of AUHS. Our task was to give $5 to every individual in need with a prayer and a blessing.
The university wanted us to stay in the local area (Signal Hill and Long Beach) so my peers and I decided it would be a more efficient use of our time to split into smaller groups and drive to places where we knew people in need congregated. I approached some people who were asleep on the sidewalk or on a bench. They woke up startled and confused but soon smiled when they realized our good intentions. Although the individuals who lived in these parks and on the streets of Long Beach were generally not accepted in our society, they were very accepting of me. In return, these individuals gave me a prayer and a blessing.
I noticed that most of the homeless people I spoke to that day traveled in groups. They ate, slept and walked with their friends who were also poor and homeless. It was touching to see that after we gave one homeless person money and a blessing, he or she would say, “Don’t forget about [so-and-so]. He’s just asleep over there.”
This experience humbled me and made me see how we cannot be selfish with the blessings we have. Even the poorest and the most downtrodden people did not want to keep the money and good news to themselves. Instead, they passed along the blessing. This is a lesson that I will never forget. Instead of being selfish with my blessings and only thinking about my needs, I have to do what I can to share my gifts with those who need it the most.
As a nursing student, this event helped me better understand my community and helped me realize that there are many of those who need God’s help; even in our own backyard. I feel more connected to the city and have a better understanding of the difficult issues many homeless individuals face. I will take the lessons I learned from “Pray it Forward” with me and I will continue to help and pray for the sick and the needy even after graduation.