–Before I get into it, I do want to say that my absence was not planned (if you’re new, I have written an article in almost a month) and I was dealing with a lot of post-breakup blues which I will share with you all in the next article. —
Volunteering changed my life. I’ve always done it when I was younger and I did so in high school as well. However, ever since my darkest times in my junior year, I lost a lot of desire to give back. I regained that in college as I walk a path a little more alone and I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of people who are in need. I’m going to share some profound stories I’ve encountered and then I will share you why it applies to you and other community services.
When I turned Christian, the transition was kind of slow. The few times I attended church (which is Hillsong-I love them), I was able to really absorb their wisdom. They mentioned that people don’t recognize the homeless community because of what the media says and what everyone says. However, we often times forget their are human too.
“Sometimes all they want is a smile, some acknowledgement,” the pastor said.
I loved that.
I didn’t know how to handle that on the day to day when I see the homeless community on the streets. There are quite a lot in NYC currently but I was told by many that we shouldn’t give money to them. I’m here to share otherwise and how it’s ok to do so sometimes.
I volunteered through the church to give back to the homeless people (let’s call them friends) and to get them off their feet. One of our friends was able to get off their feet because they were visited by the outreach team for over four years. That person is now healthy and well and also attends church. We don’t promote the church as we go along but they do often ask us why we have the heart to do the things no one else does. We’d say, “Because God would have.”
We don’t go to the shelter. We go to the streets, where they mainly reside. We ask them why they don’t go to the shelter. They usually reply that there are a lot of restrictions on their lives in the shelter. They have limitations in what they’re doing and lack of space and there’s even a curfew. So we kept going to the streets because they have the least amount of resources at the moment.
We give them socks and chapstick. Sometimes, shoes and jackets. Those will be donated by the people who attend church and that’s what we give out.
They are immensely grateful and it makes me tear up every time. I give them a handshake and if appropriate, we would all give them hugs. We want to form friendships because that’s what they desire and need right now.
One of the guys on the streets I met has anger management problems and he is deaf in one ear. He admits that he did drink and it’s the reason for his position now. He lost his wife and his custody with his kids. However, he lives paycheck to paycheck as a construction worker. He lives close to his workplace on the streets in order to be up and early to go and to be a standout employee. He said he was 50 but he was looked mid 40’s. I was blown away but how fit he was. He loved to talk because he doesn’t get to talk to a lot of people. But he strives to do better. When we offered him socks and chapstick and said “Take more.” He replied, “No no, there are a lot more people out there who needs it more right now. I don’t want to take advantage.”
My heart ripped. I’m emotional as it is, sitting here in my parents house on an Apple laptop with the AC on. I’m so blessed man…this is enough. The reason why we want more is because we are privileged to have that option. And when we don’t have it, we get sad. Besides that, it warms me to see that humans are capable of such compassion and especially when they’re at they’re lowest, like our friends on the streets.
Of course, this is not every homeless person you may see in the streets and they can sure be nasty in personality at times. However, they may be going through a whole lot we don’t know about and we shouldn’t group them all into the same category. Just like we shouldn’t do that with anyone else. Not all Asians like math. Not all African Americans are aggressive. Not all gays are the same. No one is the same. Similarities, yes, but not in entirety.
Another two of our friends on the street are a couple, married 15 years. They are also Christian who had a good life. They had a house and then moved to NYC into an apartment. Their son, unfortunately, stole $190k from them. They are left astray as they had more debt piling up and had to move out entirely.
On the streets, the money that they get from people who walk past, they use that for good hygiene. When we hugged them, they smelled like good deodorant. They stayed on that same street for a while and the superintendent allowed them to stay at their door because they keep the street clean. They also helped with trash and everything.
The guy had a broken leg and sat on a wheelchair. He had four metal rods through his bones across his right leg. He said “it hurts when I’m laying down but at least I have my wife with me”. “Marrying my best friend was the best thing that happened to me,” he said, “She has never left my side.”
They talked more about their lives for about an hour from 8pm-9pm. It flew by quick. They said that they had friends who are also Christians and they went to Africa and India, particularly the third world parts. They stated that they saw a kid sitting by the well all day in Africa in order to get water, which came out a droplet at a time. The water was muddy and they had to drink that. The couple then proceeded to say that, “There are people out there going through things that is worse than being homeless like us. I’m so grateful for this even though it’s not the best situation to most people.” This story was so profound to me because sometimes, I find it hard to be grateful for the amazing life I have already. Like, I need to get over it and be grateful and move forward!
In these stories are great lessons I didn’t know I needed. More like, didn’t know I needed to be reminded.
Since the couple were also Christian, the guy knew a lot of the lines from the Bible because he studied it. We did a prayer, holding each other’s hands. “Please protect our new friends, God. May you protect them from harm as they return home. Thank you for the blessings that we count everyday,” he said. (Maybe not exactly those words and there were also a lot more but you know what I mean haha)
Immediately after the prayer, we took out the shoes that we forgot to give out. We took out the pink shoes and grey shoes, both sneakers. We asked if it would fit them since it was donated to us. We didn’t know who to give it to.
The woman screamed as pink is her favorite color, then checked the size.
It’s a perfect fit.
The guy said, “Oh they may be too big,” to the grey shoes but then proceeds to put it on.
It was also a perfect fit.
I don’t care if you don’t believe in God or if you’re Christian or not. Universe. Buddha. Whichever. This was no Cinderella movie. This is real. When that happened, my eyes welled up with a lot of emotions. A kind of shock that I get when crazy things happen. It was not planned. We didn’t know them before and we didn’t know their shoe size. It was definitely a moment of the universe. A moment of something beyond us and that moment will continue to live on with me. I hope it does for you too.
We live in a society where we are well advanced into everything. First world problems are a quite real. I read this book by Mark Manson called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck” (get the book here) and it is everything everyone should know and more. We have so many things in life right now. We can have food delivered to us. We can have everything instantly. We have technology that solves almost all our issues. The ISSUE with that is that we start to form problems that were never there because our human biology needs to be stimulated by having something to solve or to learn. We start to form problems like hating a person online or we gossip about someone’s irrelevant love life. It’s all in the human mind and in our biology. It’s why we can have everything and still be unhappy.
Now I’m not saying you have to give money to homeless people now nor am I saying that you should be Christian. Being Christian is my decision and you can make yours. However, I do recommend giving back to people in every way that you can. Whether it is holding the door or just buying someone that shirt they wanted for a long time. Or you can go to a soup kitchen or help out at the Red Cross. Volunteering can be anything and giving back can even be the smallest things.
The world is here for us and volunteering is a way to give back to the world and to put out good energy that we need more of nowadays.
Thank you for reading!!