One of my 2016 New Years Resolution is to actively participate in a selfless act once per month. Last week was the first time I’ve ever prepared and handed out food for the homeless. I arrived at 257 Hastings on a sunny Sunday afternoon where the Hungry Hearts team and I bagged up sandwiches, cookies, and sweets to give to the homeless.
The Forbidden Streets of Vancouver East Hastings?
I remember as a young child, every time my Mom and I drove past this part of Hastings between Gore and Pender Street, my mom would double-check to see if the car doors were locked. My perception of East Hastings has always been, “this part of town is very unsafe”, “you must stay alert at all times”, “lock your doors or someone will pounce at you and pull you out of your car.” But when I was there today, I didn’t feel any of those things at all.
As I walked past homeless people on the street, down this unexplored and ‘hazardous’ part of town, a sea of thoughts flooded my mind.
- wow, the streets are pretty clean
- wow, the homeless are so civilized and polite
- wow, the homeless are so clean and well dressed
- wow, homeless are so friendly and nice to each other, they’re really polite and well mannered
Reflecting on these thoughts, I noticed the prejudice I held towards these people and that I have never cared to learn more about them. I’ve come to realize how little I know of this world of beings that I have always perceived to be ‘dangerous’. It made me realize how many biases and presumptions I had of the homeless. Which makes me wonder how often I wrongfully make assumptions of other people and things.
I shamefully realized I’ve perceived these people as … another species, as if they are just one and homogenous. I saw them as people roaming around the streets with no purpose in life, and that these people have no friends, no family. As if they don’t need the same type of care, compassion, and love that both you and I need.
I can’t believe I could think of another human being like that!
How awfully ashamed and wrong I am. I literally want to smack myself in the face a couple times over.
It was a rude awakening of how extremely important it is to always come from a place of understanding. NOT a place of assumptions.
One specific person I encountered really made a dent in my heart.
He was dressed pretty well. If he didn’t come up for food I wouldn’t have known he was homeless. (or maybe he’s not?) But he definitely looked hungry and desperate for food.
You know when people say you can look into someone’s soul through their eyes? That’s exactly how I felt when I exchanged eye contact with this man.
Somber and bleak.
It reminded me of what Elaine said, that “on average a homeless person in Vancouver can get 7 free meals in one single day”, and of what Edison told me that “the one thing most homeless people need is someone to talk to, not food or shelter.”
the biggest deprivation of being homeless is the loss of dignity and pride.
I saw the pain in his eyes and I felt his pain, immensely.
The look of desperation and hopelessness triggered a deep sense of sympathy for this man. I almost teared up. I can’t fathom how it feels to lose all dignity, to lose your sense of self-worth and pride. The painful and torturous self-detrimental thoughts lurking in your mind every single minute of your life. What is life like being so ‘low’ all the time?
This really makes me stop to wonder.
What really goes on down on Hastings?
What are the gaps that need to be filled?
What are the bigger issues that we should be tackling here. Where do we start?