When Homelessness Hits Home

This past weekend I was able to take some time away from school and volunteer! I went with a group of friends into the city and teamed up to do a mobile mission. We loaded up a van with clothes, toiletry supplies, and food, then drove to different spots around the city where the homeless typically congregate.

As this was not my first experience with the homeless population, nothing came as a real shock to me. However, each time I am always reminded of my appreciation for these people. I or someone I know could easily be in the same situation… being stuck homeless on the streets. We are so quick to judge these people when it could so easily be any one of us.

I met two young men, probably college age, who were so grateful to receive any sort of help we could give them. I don’t know why these boys were on the streets, but it really hits home when they are so young and going through this on their own.

I also got to meet one college-aged girl. We were serving hot coffee, and she brought along an empty gallon jug and filled the whole thing up with coffee. She then asked if we had any pads or tampons… she took the whole box of tampons. Could this girl be any more relatable? Like girl, I feel you. 

A lot of the time this is not what homelessness is thought to be, but this is the reality. People just like you and me were caught in a bad situation now their lives are flipped upside down.

Hero Mentality

I have heard again and again… don’t have a hero mentality.

But I can’t help it!

To give some context, when preparing to go on a service trip the leader always reminds us not to have a hero mentality. Meaning, don’t start serving thinking that what you do is going to have this HUGE impact and everything will be better once you leave.

Typically when serving, you are partnering with an organization who has been serving a community for a long time. When you come in for a week to serve, that is just one week of the years the organization has been there. If a whole organization has not solved all the problems by now, do you really think you can?

Therefore, it important to remember that when we serve, we are only one tiny piece of the puzzle. Of course our service has an impact, but we must remain a humble servant.

Which brings us to the spiritual side of things… remember that is all God working through us. It is through God that these communities step out of poverty or the man on the side of the road is given a bed for the night.

Only God has the power to save the world. Although it can be hard to take a step back and humble ourselves. It is good remind ourselves, THROUGH CHIST we can do all things.

 

 

Living on One Dollar

For anyone who has never left their country of origin, or anyone who has never visited a third world country, I recommend watching this. Living on One Dollar is a documentary on Netflix. It tells the story of a few college students who move to Guatemala and try to live on a dollar a day, just as the natives would. This documentary does well at accurately portraying life in an impoverished community. It is important to keep in mind, these students were only living like this for a few months, in reality, this is how some people live their entire lives. The film does its best to keep this in the viewers mind. Of course, a better way to understand this kind of poverty is to visit these communities yourself or even try to do what these students did. However, make sure to realize that you will never truly know the struggle of poverty until it is not a choice.

How are you in Poverty?

Maybe this topic is talked about more than I am aware. I know I have heard it a lot in preparing for mission’s trips… but I don’t know when else this would be brought up.

The definition of poverty (when googled) is: the state of being extremely poor. 

Obviously when we hear the word poverty the first thing we think of is those who don’t have much money, those who don’t have a home, or enough food to eat.

However, poverty takes many forms. We can be extremely in a lot of areas of life.

Think of an impoverished community. My mind goes to the ones that I have seen and experienced in Bolivia and Belize. Now in what ways are the people in those communities richer than you?

I live in the United States, and I think we are poor when it comes to culture. There are many sub-cultures within the United States, however, as a whole we lack the traditions and customs that make a place and it’s people beautiful.

We also have poor relationships. In the impoverished communities I’ve experienced and even the ones I’ve heard about, all the people know each other and look out for each other. In the U.S. it seems to me that we like to keep to ourselves and think of our own needs first.

We are also poor in faith. I’ve seen poor communities with such faith. Faith in God or whatever they may believe in. They have trust, worship, and dedication like no one else I’ve ever seen. In my opinion many Christians, at least in the U.S., do not have a very rich and full faith.

Then I ask myself where my poverties are… I’d say family, faith, and culture, just to name a few. (To be honest, I’m even a little impoverished on the money side of things at the moment too).

So I encourage you to find ways how those who don’t have a lot of money, are actually rich. And one more thing, how are you in poverty?

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Didn’t God choose poor people in the world to become rich in faith and to receive the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?”

–  James 2: 5

Poor in NYC – Could you do it?

Throwing it back to the year 2014. A team of us in New York City.

Our team was led by CSM (City Service Missions) for a week where we served at different food pantries and soup kitchens.

One day our leader gave us a challenge. She took us to an area in Greenwich Village (I believe) and gave us boundaries. The purpose was to put us in an area with a higher income. She gave each of us one dollar. This dollar is all we had to pay for our dinner. She also gave us a list of tasks to accomplish while we were there, most of which involved starting a conversation with a stranger. Then our leader left and we were on our own.

We walked around and searched all the blocks within our boundaries searching for a cheap meal. In some parts of New York, it is easy to find a slice of pizza for a dollar or something along those lines. However, if you were in this area in Greenwich Village, you would have no luck finding a meal with so little money.

An hour went by and our team was getting quite frustrated with one another and the whole process. After plenty of arguing, we gave up.

Luckily, we had leftover bagged lunches because we were unexpectedly served a meal for lunch at one of the soup kitchens we served at. This goes to show, if someone really only had a dollar to spend on food, how much one free meal could help, and how much these soup kitchens are really helping the low-income communities.

We ate, and then we started to focus. Each of us decided separately yet at the same time to go start making conversation with people. Some of us even got to share our lunches. Talking to the people who actually live in the area helped us learn and understand low-income life in NYC more than anyone could have taught us by lecturing. We then put all our dollars together and bought one meal that we gave to a hungry man on the street which was a much better use than any of us spending it.

Although, this challenge did not go as it was supposed to, and you could probably say we cheated… it still delivered an important message. We got a glimpse of how hard it would be to live off of a low-income in a place like NYC. We also realized how silly it was of us to get so frustrated about not finding someplace to eat when we weren’t even starving and we had a back up lunch all along. While talking to the people we met, we were able to get our priorities straight once again and stop focusing on our own wants.

This trip to NYC was probably the first time I was introduced to poverty. I was young and still learning, but every experience has an impact.