Last night was like no other.
I usually have too much to say…too many words to write down.
But, this experience has affected me in a way others have not, hurling me into unfamiliar territory.
So, here I sit, speechless, before a blinking cursor that’s begging me for words.
I have spent my entire life looking away from the misfortune, hardship, and pain of others. I’ve found it too much to bear, so instead of dealing and feeling, I run away, back to my comfortable life.
What if everyone ran?
Last night, I surveyed young, homeless people. I gathered information for the heroes who run towards those without, rather than away from. Heroes who seek to better understand these young people, so they can help them get back up.
I was so nervous in the hours leading up to the count, my heart pounded through my chest.
I was nervous I wouldn’t know how to talk to them. I was nervous they would see me for what I am – someone who’s been given everything and lacks for nothing. I was scared they wouldn’t feel how deeply I feel for them, or how much I want to help them.
But, I forced myself to enter the shelter anyway, pushed through the doors with all of your beautiful words.
The first person who walked over to me was broken in so many ways; her soul was in pieces. I did my best to make her comfortable, letting her know she could say whatever she wanted, and hold tight to those things that were too hard to share.
I feared going into this that I’d break down right there in front of these young ones. Or, that I would detach too much, masking how much I cared.
But, sitting there in front of these beautiful humans, I felt at home. I managed to find a balance between being a sobbing mess and a robot.
Some shared very little of themselves. Some couldn’t let it out fast enough. One thing was evident – both hadn’t been listened to for a very long time, and have been swept aside by all of us…sweepers.
I shared with the ones who checked yes that I, too, had been to jail – for a DUI when I was 25. I needed them to know that bad choices don’t make you a bad person, and that they mustn’t define you.
I wanted her to relate to me, despite our different journeys.
I stripped my finger of it’s sparkly engagement ring, my ears of their small diamond studs, before heading over there.
I was desperate to remove the tell-tale signs of privilege, wanting them to see me for who I am underneath it all.
An insecure girl, who has fought, and continues to fight, the voices that have told me my entire life that I’m worthless.
A work in progress.
Someone who is just now learning that I’m worth so much, and more than capable of all those things that once seemed impossible.
I sat in awe before the 18 year old young man who’d been bounced around the system from the age of six months old, never having a mother, a father, or any family at all.
Despite it all, he wanted to be a counselor.
He told me he’d change the world.
And, he will.
With all that’s been handed to me, it still took me so long to find his kind of bravery. Sometimes, it still eludes me.
A young girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we could just talk.
She shared with me a life filled with pain and neglect…one void of love or kindness.
I finally asked her if she needed a hug (because I needed to hug her). She cried, and said yes.
I hugged her so hard I could have broken a rib. I was desperate for her to know that I loved her and believed in her, even if no one else ever had.
She asked me if I’d be back. I promised her I would.
I hope she’s still there for me to hug again.
Over the past few months, something has clicked for me.
The homeless epidemic that once seemed too big to tackle, now seems too big to neglect.
I’m tired of hearing people that come from trust funds say they’ve worked for all they have and resent those who “mooch” off the system.
I’m tired of others, that truly have worked for what they have, asking why everyone else can’t do the same. No two situations are alike. It’s absurd to compare hardships.
My problem has always been assuming that I can’t make a difference.
I’ve always thought to myself, “Why bother?”
We must bother.
We must try to be parents to the parent-less, sisters and brothers to the sibling-less, and friends to the friend-less.
We must do less judging and questioning, and more listening and loving.
We must remember that, one day, it could be us, our children, our parents, or our friends, that need a hand.
We must be softer.
And, most importantly, we must stop pretending that we aren’t part of the problem…or the solution.
Because, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
Why the hell else are we here?
* * *
Stay tuned tomorrow for Project: We See You – February!