I came to the United States in July 4, 1984. I left the Philippines due to deteriorating economic situation in my country under military rule. In spite of having a College degree in one of the prestigious University in my own country, I worked odd jobs in the US because I do not have local work experience. I worked in McDonalds as a janitor, worked in Oriental store removing scales from fish and stocking grocery items, gardener and several other meager paying jobs. I always worked double jobs to meet my financial obligations and support my family in the Philippines.
With God’s grace and hard work, I was able to obtain a Masters Degree in 5 years while still working double jobs. One day while I was coming out of the public library, I saw a family of three (mother, father and son) feeding the homeless on the rear side of the Arlington public library. I stood aside and was emotionally touched by this family. After approximately 20 minutes of watching them, feeding the homeless, I decided to talked to them because I became interested in feeding the homeless. I found out that I have to coordinate with ASPAN (Arlington Street People Assistance Network). For several weeks I pondered on the idea if I should do it or not. I am going to graduate school and have two jobs, where will I find the time to feed the homeless. I was really convicted by this family and finally decided to do it.
My purpose in life to make money and make more money in America had changed when I started feeding the homeless. I need to do something for the less fortunate who can not repay. Suddenly I realized that I could relate to the homeless because it could have been me or any of my family members. Our family is very poor in the Philippines. There are eight children of us in the family and my father is the only bread winner. My father is foreman in a government owned railway company. My grand mother who receives pension from US government helps us augment our family income. The pension of my grandmother was granted because my uncle died fighting with American soldiers during the Fall of Bataan during the WW II.
Before I started feeding the homeless, I thought they are lazy people. I came to realize that there are so many reasons for homelessness. Some of them have mental disability, retired Vietnam Veterans who never recovered from the effects of the war, laid off from jobs for so many months, senior citizens abandoned by family members, some with chemical dependencies, some migrated from other states and can’t find a job, and lot of other reasons. Each of the homeless have stories to tell which I find out while talking to them after feeding. My wife and I started feeding the homeless every 3rd Saturday of the month since 1996 with our own money. In 2004, the religious community that we belong to, took over our personal project and became the community’s outreach program.
Our lives and many more lives in our community are being changed by this project. Personally, when I see a homeless person now, I don’t shy away or stay away from them anymore. I talk to them, invite them to a restaurant or a deli place when I see them at the door asking for food. I believe that my purpose in life and my relationships with God and other people has changed by the homeless people that I see, meet and serve.