The following piece is a speech that was presented by a participant of the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau after her trip to Washington, DC:
Someone once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
Before DC, my classmates and I were just like everyone else, we feared what we did not understand and therefore we did our best to avoid it. We go about our lives ignoring the bad, because we believe it cannot happen to us, but honestly, I don’t think any of us truly believe that.
It is crazy how one moment can alter your entire outlook on life, making you realize that up until that moment, you had not understood life itself. After a day of lobbying in DC, we went to the Thurgood Marshall Community Center to hear a program on homelessness. We would be hearing stories from people who had once been homeless and were now sharing there stories with others.
As a normal teenager, I was thinking, “This is gonna be boring, hopefully I will be able to take a nap.” But, from the moment the first man opened his mouth to speak, I was hooked, and by the end of the program, I found myself in tears. Whether they were tears of sorrow for those people and what they went through, or tears of my guilt in feeling so unaware of what is going on in the world, I knew from that moment I had to help. I know my classmates had that same feeling too. As we walked out of the building to the metro, there was a homeless man sitting on the steps of a restaurant, I opened my wallet along with my other classmates, and put in a dollar. The look on his face was priceless, and from then on, the rest of the trip we all decided to help the homeless, not only by giving them money, but most importantly, by letting them know we cared.
On our last night in DC, about five of my classmates and I along with Rabbi Ed wanted to do one last thing. After dinner, we walked over the pharmacy and bought packs of goldfish, granola bars and Koolaid. We each chipped in about two dollars, and with that we were on our way.
We were on a search to find those people in need, the ones who get ignored on the streets, the ones who are looked at and thought of as lazy and dumb. We were on a mission, that mission was to find those people, and not just to give them the food we had bought, but to make them feel like they weren’t alone in this world, and to let them know there were still people who cared and wanted to help them.
From DC I learned a lot, but I never thought I would view homeless people to be an inspiration. Each morning they awake to nothing, looking for somewhere to go, for food to eat, and shelter for warmth. These challenges all arise to them before we even awake in the morning. We go about our days complaining about our gross school lunches, our lack of sleep, our loads of homework, and much more. But, we never stop to think of how amazing our lives are, and how we should thank our parents for everything they do for us, and how in one moment all of that can be gone. We could have everything taken away from us at any time, our family, friends, house, school. But no, we don’t think about those things. Why you might ask? Because we don’t believe it could ever happen to us. Until now.
So I would like to thank my parents, friends, and Rabbi, for helping me open my eyes to the real world that surrounds me. And lastly, thank you DC, without you I would still be in fear of what I did not understand, but now that I understand it, life seems to mean all the more.
John Burroughs School