Homeless people have always captured my interest and imagination. It’s always moved me to imagine the difficulty in existing naked. No shelter is essentially living bare. How do you remove the fear or uncertainty and just live – uncovered and completely vulnerable? What cataclysmic events causes this? How do so many people end up here? The question seems so elementary, but it’s not. Assumptions pour over the reasons like warm gravy; lazy, addicted or mentally unstable right? It’s always easy to oversimplify and desensitize the very basic challenges we all face. It’s estimated that 82,000 people in Los Angeles – enough to fill the Coliseum, are without shelter on any given night. Fortitude and coping mechanisms aren’t gift wrapped and handed to any of us. We all require support in many different ways.
I used to be an unforgiving, immature young man. Homeless people were nothing more than a nuisance to me; I’ve never had the courage to verbally kick someone when they’re down, but I held preconceived beliefs that I refused to address or release for years. How many times did I walk by without making eye contact – fear that locking eyes would somehow make me accountable for my choice to ignore their struggle. I wasn’t raised that way. I grew up in a home where caring for others was the modus operandi – It’s the only way my mother operated. Being of service with a goal of achieving inner piece and paying it forward. At some point as a young adult, I turned that switch off for a while.
That switch should never be turned off for any of us – life is too beautiful.
After returning to that place of compassion – I engaged full force. Volunteered for the fatherless and fed the homeless, but never feeling like any of that was enough. I’ve never felt like it lasted long enough. How do you freeze those moments of gratitude and appreciation? Maybe the reward is wrapped in the gift of service.
In this city, the opportunity to serve in different ways is ever present. I used to believe that reaching into my pocket was the only way to engage. Money, clothes, food and time are great, but donations can be given in so many ways. Smile. A smile is always a gift worth the effort for someone who needs it.
We are all in this together.