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  • Writer's pictureJules Arata

down by the river

Jackson, MO


here i go again adding another state to my list, 26 overall, but 8th with this job alone. i have become used to seeing new states, but this one felt different.


before this trip started, i was stressed. stressed over the concept of this event, that somehow i was picked to help beta-test a new type of event flow. worried that even though there were 6 of us there to work the event, that i would somehow mess it up. but then we drove up.


there is something so calming about working with a host team that has been putting on an event with us for years. there is a greater sense of understanding, the expectations are at the same level from both sides, and there is a smaller chance for miscommunication. so when we walked into the building and they already had a team of at least 20 people setting up tables, ready to help set up in any way, it was like all of the tension was released from my shoulders. this event was different.


there was this group of men who worked the entire event from set up, through all 6 shifts, to loading. they are part of an organization called Breaking Bonds, which is a faith-based men's residential addiction treatment program. they are the kind of men that are so strong and stone-faced that you may avoid them in the street. but when you talk to them, their smiles were something so pure. their joy was so clearly from a greater source and you knew how hard they worked to be where they are. in serving alongside them i learned a lot, but one thing was consistent among every man. if you asked any one of them what their favorite thing was, they would all say it was helping others. these men so readily jumped into what ever job needed to be done, filling in where was needed, and joked around with me and each other, all without missing a beat. they are what made this event for me.


you know it's a special event when you get so familiar with a group of volunteers in the packing room that you know each table's demeanor and receive their witty comebacks.


you know it's a special event when you go on a random adventure with one of your best friends from work and end up at a giant wall full of murals on the edge of the mississippi river. then you stumble into an antique store in downtown only to try on funny hats and old of print board games and soda bottles of drinks that no longer exist.


it's a special event when 447 kids will now get fed for a year.


what i learned

  1. how much my input matters

  2. how much my energy can effect a room

  3. having friends who understand your job makes a difference

how i grew


i am continuing to grow past people's harsh exteriors. so many times, the interior does not match. they met me with strength, but brought me in with their smiles and willingness


favorite parts


unpacking our marketplace and seeing volunteers freak out over the fact that we had hand-sewn missouri ornaments made in haiti.


bonding with a woman upon asking for her contact information at checkout bc she was from dallas but had just moved to MO from CT. too many small worlds there.


forging relationships with volunteers and being able to create inside jokes


to jackson, mo:


thank you for welcoming us into your community yet again. thank you for giving of yourselves so readily and easily. thank you for the way you helped us troubleshoot this event, finding us drain stops for a triple sink, navigating what felt like 10 different colors of hairnets, and joking with us throughout. y'all truly made the event feel normal and flow better than we could have dreamed.

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