Imagine walking down an alley late at night, coming back from a friend’s house. It’s a dark and bitter night. There are very few people walking around. A creepy homeless man, covered in dirt and rags, comes up to you and starts talking to you. How would you feel in this situation? Scared? Uncomfortable? That’s everyone’s first instinct. It was mine too, but after this life changing experiences everything was different
This summer I went on a mission trip with my youth group to The Tenderloin in San Francisco. This is one of the cities with the most homeless people around. On most corners you will find family owned stores, illegal prostitution homes, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and at least ten or more homeless people on every block. My youth group and I arrived in our van to the center of this city, at the Youth with a Mission building. When I took my first step out of the van I remember looking around at all the people. I was frightened; I realized there were only a few of us and millions of them. My first reaction was to grab all my things and run into the building. So I sat there inside with all of the youth group people staring at the homeless.
That night we had our first assignment. Our youth group had to go out into the city and at least talk to five or more of the homeless people. When I heard this I was shocked. I was a pretty sheltered kid and would never do anything like this, especially not at ten o’ clock at night. We all ended up going in groups of three or four. The first man we came to talk to I was shaking. Now I realize how silly that was for me to be so scared. We introduced our selves to the man and started to talk. He turned out to be really sweet and nice. He had told us God Bless You at least twenty times. And he had the most interesting stories to tell. It turned out it was that bad after all.
The next man we went to I will always remember, Toby. Toby was in a wheel chair with a broken leg. He looked really beat up. I remember him showing us his Journal was he wrote down everything that had happened to him. He asked us all of our names so he could put them in there too. He also introduced us to his best friends which he had met just a few hours ago. All parents and teachers tell you not to do drugs. But hearing this from Toby really affected me. Toby was just like us. He had a wife, two kids, a house, and a car. He said he had a great job he had everything, until he started to do heroine. It was unbelievable to me how this one drug he did once, have him so addicted it ruined his whole life. And there he was out on the street messed up trying to find his way back.
The next time I ever saw a homeless person I like to say hello, ask how their doing or just even wave. They all may look frightening or say crazy things but just acknowledging them can go a long way. The story of Toby and all of the others really changed the way I thought about them or looked at them. I am no longer of afraid because they are people just like me and you. I have faith in all of them and have so much more respect for them. This trip was so incredible, so life changing, I will never look at a homeless person the same again. I believe that you should never judge anyone by their looks.
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