Yesterday evening, NCH hosted an event called “Can You Hear Us?” outdoors in Shevchenko Park, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC . Four members of our Speaker’s Bureau presented their personal stories and advice to a group of young, well-engaged activists.
Each speaker addressed a different issue. David Pirtle began the event by talking about the violence he faced simply because he was homeless. T. Sanders inspired us all to advocate for an issue we feel passionate about. She chose to advocate for at-risk youth; this was due to the fact that she herself was in such a position. John Harrison, addressed the derogatory manor in which he was treated because of his appearance as a “bum.” Lastly, Steve Thomas discussed how one wrong decision can lead to the path of homelessness. Even at 51 years old, Steve said all he needed was his “mommy,” someone to care for him and encourage him to keep going.
While inspired, I was initially disappointed that on the surface, the mission of this event appeared to be unfulfilled. Though the speakers were clearly audible even over the bustling of traffic, they were not truly heard by the many people who chose to walk by. As our last speaker Steve Thomas said, “Homelessness is a matter of convenience for other people.” It was not convenient for most people to come to such an event when more exciting activities than a discussion on homelessness were taking place. Homelessness is only “convenient” when it personally touches you.
Inevitably, the next question that came to my mind was how do we get this issue to touch others. I realized however, that the answer was to continue doing exactly what we had done. While this event may not have touched many, it transformed the way of thinking for those who attended.
After the event, one member of the audience told me,
“You really grabbed my attention. I have a completely different impression about homelessness than I did before and I would like to become more involved with this issue. Your organization and these speakers have made a great impact today.”
It was then that I understood: while it would have been wonderful if hundreds of people came to this event, our organization was still able to influence at least one person. This one person will in turn influence another person, and one will eventually turn into hundreds. A major goal of our organization is to inspire others to take action and yesterday, we did just that.
A special thanks must once again be given to our four wonderful speakers, without whom, we would not be able to effectively carry out NCH’s mission.
By Sahana Malik