Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 35: Homeless Order

Today was an absolutely beautiful day marking D.C's unofficial start of spring. Here in the district's capitol, spring is marked by sneezes every few blocks (allergies), outdoor bottomless brunches and walks to the famed cherry blossoms.

My friend and I decided to go on a long walk down to the White House. I don't do it often, but whenever I do I'm always amazed by the fact that I live so close to the most powerful man in the world.

On the 3.5 mile walk there, there are typically homeless men and women sitting in the streets. Nothing unusual, but today I particularly noticed an Asian homeless woman. It was surprising because I always think Asian homeless people are rare, let alone middle-aged Asian women, but I thought nothing more of it as I continued my walk. Soon after, another homeless man approached us asking if we could translate for her. At first I was hesitant. Was this some ploy? I've been known to fall into many schemes before out of my willingness to engage with strangers. But I decided to do it out of some sense of responsibility. Maybe it struck me harder because this woman could have been my own mother. However, once I got to her, she was incredibly reluctant to talk to me. Maybe it was the fact that I was a stranger in her face, or that I was asking her questions, but I eventually (and reluctantly) gave up on talking to her.

However, the man that approached us guided us away to show us his "home." He brought us to a bench in a park crowded with 10 giant storage bins. Each bin contained toothbrushes, ramen, blankets, water, plastic bags, and anything else homeless people would need. He told us that he was somewhat of a headquarter for homeless folks in the area. He had been on the streets since October, and he had spent all the money he received buying resources to sustain other homeless individuals. The coolest part about all of it was that he was so proud of everything, himself, other homeless individuals, his country, just everything. He was so incredibly happy with his situation, and we didn't bother asking him what his future was going to be.

Surprisingly, I've learned a bit about the homeless culture. In my sociology class, we read a book called Sidewalk which shows light on the organized culture of homeless individuals. They develop as much of a community as people living in homes, and it's admirable to see the pride that goes into building these communities. We thanked the man for all he did, and finally bid him farewell after our unexpected interruption.

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