Yesterday was Community Service day at CAA. Which means the entire school packs up and ships off to various parts to help people.
I was assigned 10 beautiful teenagers and given 4 hours to help others.
We first set of to Options 360 which is christian pregnancy clinic. They provide free pregnancy testing and counseling. We cleaned their clinic and then headed into downtown Portland.
We purchased 50 bean and cheese burritos and walked through some of the "needier" areas of the city handing them out.
It was amazing to see how grateful people were for this 79 cent burrito. Almost everyone gave us a huge smile and many words of appreciation. One hesitated, asking with a sneer "what church?" I said pardon me? and she repeated "what church is this from?" I had the very strong impression that this woman would not accept our offering if I named a church. So I said "its just from people who care..." Did I do the right thing?
We had another guy who yelled when handed the burrito "YEA, ALRIGHT!!" I smiled and said glad we could help. He stated "I'm high and I'm hungry!" Ok....anyway, keep walking kids...
It was interesting walking around downtown looking for people that would appreciate a free burrito. What do those people look like? Some are obvious, some not so much. Two people turned us down. I imagine they went home and told their families that some people mistook them for homeless people today...
Everyone was friendly and appreciative. It was a very different perspective.
When I was a teenager I would often go downtown by myself or with friends to shop.
One time I was heading back to my car with a shopping bag and I was approached by what I assume was a homeless teenager. He asked me for some money. I ignored him and kept walking...He screamed very rude things at me for the next two blocks...It left me shaking and upset. I have always wondered am I required to handover money every time I'm asked if I have it?
Now we have people on every corner in some parts of town with their cardboard signs asking for money. When I was working in Portland I would pass a minimum of four of these people every day. It is so uncomfortable to be sitting in my car while just on the other side of my door an individual stands begging for money.
If I handed them a $5 every day would their lives get better? What if I handed them a $20?
I've heard countless stories about how these "corner people" make tons of money. Why would they leave their corner when they can stand there and people will hand them money all day?
I'm cynical... I'm untrusting...
But yesterday was a different experience. Several years ago I used to get up really early on Sunday mornings and take a group of kids down to the city to work at a mission that offered a hot breakfast on Sunday mornings. We would work in the kitchen serving food for those who came by. That was a rewarding experience. Yesterday was a rewarding experience...
It was an important reminder to me that these people are people. Yesterday I looked for them, I didn't avoid them. Yesterday I spoke with them, I didn't ignore them. I hope I'm growing...