Hearing about the Southside of Bethlehem coming from a suburb of Chicago, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I didn’t know what I was walking into as I read about the city.
I am sure that by now, you have seen or heard many things about Bethlehem. After nearly two semesters living here, I can safely say it is a misunderstood and incredibly diverse city with countless opportunities to explore.
One of the first moments I realized this was when I volunteered at the Victory House.
The Victory House serves as a safe space for homeless men, particularly veterans, to have access to food, medical care, other amenities and a place to sleep.
When I first entered, I took notice of the camaraderie between the residents. I then entered the kitchen to cook them a meal for dinner.
One of the residents brought his empty plate up to me and smiled as we finished cooking.
“I sincerely appreciate this,” he said. “I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day.”
He was so genuinely touched by what we had done. That moment gave me something I didn’t know I needed – a sense that I had made a difference in someone’s day.
There are plenty of people like this in Bethlehem. People from all over appreciate the little things others do for them and treat others with generosity and respect.
Working with the Boys and Girls Club, I was once again exposed to this sort of demeanor.
One of the directors at the club was a lifelong Bethlehem resident herself. Though she hadn’t been a member of the club in her youth, she spoke to me about the kindness and joy the kids display, even as they face other problems at home, at school and in daily life.
She spoke of their personalities with such admiration; I saw it in them myself. They ran around me, laughing and giggling, their faces glowing with grins with every thrown football or TikTok dance move.
The people of Bethlehem are extremely hardworking and some center their livelihoods on helping others. In this day and age, that sort of selflessness can be hard to find.
In yet another example of this within the Bethlehem community, I met Broughal Middle School faculty who prioritized the well-being of students and families in a way that left me inspired when I sorted donated clothes with them.
Nearly 20 or so boxes seemed to fill the administrative offices inside the school, protruding on desk space and filing cabinets along the wall.
This in no way, shape or form came as an obstruction or inconvenience to the staff. On the contrary, they seemed to view it as a priority.
The donated clothes provide warmth and fashion for so many students and their families, they explained to me.
As I sorted through them, I was told that most of the clothes were donated by the faculty.
These weren’t your classic run-down, bottom of the bag, forgotten-in-your-closet sort of clothes. Instead, these were clothes that the staff donated because they just wanted their students to have them.
Brand or condition made no determination in giving these items away. I couldn’t help but feel appreciative of the faculty myself.
Altruism is a cultural trait of Bethlehem. People here frequently use their own resources and time to provide others a better and easier life.
These are not the dynamics you may see in many students’ hometowns, where programs like these are nearly nonexistent.
If you are looking to get involved in the town, I highly recommend it. There are countless opportunities to learn more about the residents – who they are and what they do.
Learn to respect the city and, most importantly, appreciate it.