Bible said, ‘Love your neighbors as yourself.’ Everybody heard about this at least once and realized it’s easy to say but hard to act. One of the most surprising things in DC is that we can meet lots of homeless people very frequently everywhere on the street. Most of them are just sitting and doing nothing but some of them are asking for money or loudly murmuring. At this point, you might wonder if there are any homeless people in Seoul, South Korea. Of course. There are many. Seoul is one of the biggest cities in the world with population exceeding 10 million. But the difference between two cities is Korean homeless people are gathering at some specific areas like Seoul Train Station and hardly see them during day time. Thus, it’s rare for me to feel urge to find ways to help them in person. But here in DC, they inspired me to think how to help them but was struggling to find the answers due to lack of knowledge and experience. Therefore, I asked some advice to my Washingtonian acquaintances but they said that I should give food instead of money not to support their drugs, alcohols or cigarettes, etc. That was all.
Thanks to Mara Paulini Macado, Class15, she shared the relevant article <3 Ways to Responsibly and Compassionately Respond to Panhandling>, written by Sara Whitestone on her Facebook. I carefully took a look at it and made a decision to follow her ideas as below. She suggested,
1) Say ‘Hello’
You can help those who are panhandling by just recognizing that person’s humanity.
==> I will try this I feel like I should be more brave for simple greetings .
2) Give (If You Can)
According to the study of people handling in San Francisco, 94% disclosed that they spend the money they collect while panhandling on food. We shouldn’t police where our money goes if we give it away.
==> Hmm…still not sure about this.
3) Get Involved.
Volunteer, get educated about the causes and advocate.
==>I like this idea. Thus, I decided to participate to DC2DC Korean Church’s monthly voluntary activity of giving breakfast to homeless people on Feb 7th. I went to the President’s park early in the morning. Even though I put on my long winter duck down padding jumper and boots, it was so freezing. We greeted one another and then moved to McDonald’s to buy morning meals and coffees. There were six members this time and each person purchased two sets so that we could cover 12 homeless people in total. On our way to McPherson Square metro station, where is one of main gathering place for homeless people, I was a bit concerned and feared like this. ‘What if they refuse our food?’ ‘What if there are too many people and we have shortage?’ But when I arrived there with other members, they were so friendly and expressed their gratitude for our breakfast. I tried to talk with them about the cold weather but couldn’t go deeper. A black man was so excited to see us and kept telling his story. Due to my limited English skills, it was a bit difficult to understand what he was talking about but I realized that they needed somebody to listen to their stories. On my way back home, I felt slightly better but still sad and depressed. But at least one thing that I learned this time was those homeless people are humans. Probably money and food will be important for them to survive. But according to my experience, they need somebody to talk and share their stories.