By: Eliza Upton

Today while volunteering at Loaves And Fishes, a local soup kitchen, a few of my peers and I had the pleasure of talking with a visitor of the kitchen, Eugene. When I was first introduced to Eugene he was all jokes and smiles. He complemented me on my Chuck Taylors and mocked the fact that my age should prevent me from even calling them Chucks. It was clear from the first few minutes of our interaction that Eugene is a very charismatic man. His warm and inviting presence prompted me to sit down at the table with him and engage in a fuller conversation of more than just my shoes.

So Eugene chatted with us, but it wasn’t until the subject of his granddaughter that he really opened up. He had mentioned having a son and granddaughter, but when I asked for the name of his granddaughter he softened. Eugene became very quiet and looked down for a bit with tears welling in his eyes. After a few moments he looked back up, crying, and said “Scarlett. My granddaughter’s name is Scarlett.” After apologizing and explaining that he didn’t get to see her often, he indulged us.

Eugene went on to talk about his family, his truck, his dog, employment, and jail. He was honest and trusted us with personal information even if it brought him shame. Even after tears, his charisma and humor stayed alive throughout our time together.

It’s hard for me to fully express the meaning and importance of our conversation, but I would like to pass on two very important lessons he gave to us. The first came when he was talking about his discomfort of guns: Never forget that your life can change and be ruined in a second. Despite all his jokes he was completely serious about this one point. Your life can be ruined in a second. And whether it’s the result of a gun or not, think about your actions. Find a level head.

The second piece of advice came from the words of his mother: Keep in mind that there is always someone who has it worse than you. He spoke about that in the context of taking things for granted. How he himself had learned that from a mother who did not have feet yet always put others before herself. Sitting in that room and listening to Eugene I was able to find a new perspective once again on Gap. I had spent the week stressing about our paper that was due and our upcoming trip to Costa Rica, but I was sitting in the midst of many people who are struggling to make ends meet and find a shelter at night. There is always somebody who has it worse than you.

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