Ruined for Life, Earning the “F”, and My Last Post

September 29, 2010

So, it’s been a while. Over two months, actually. I meant to write this post in mid-August to wrap this blog up, but as JVC ended, and I began my new life as a “real person”, I got a bit distracted. Hey, it happens. But I’m back now. Well, I’m back for one last hoorah as TheVolunteacher. Here’s a quick (okay, probably not quick) rundown on what’s happened since I last wrote.

I joined about 40 Jesuit Volunteers in hiking about 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail at the beginning of August. It was intense, it was awesome, and I may actually still be sore from sleeping on the ground (or maybe it was the hiking part…). Regardless, it was a lot of fun. I had never even slept in my own backyard before, let alone gone hiking for 3 days in the wilderness of Southern Pennsylvania, but I enjoyed it. I was able to bond with some JV’s who I didn’t normally get to talk with. I got to hear more of their stories, talk sports, learn about their plans for post-JVC, and reflect on the year. It was a great experience, and one that I will never forget. I’ve attached some photos from the trail below. (As a side-note, thank you to all those who helped support me and my goal to raise $500 for JVC for this hike. Your generosity helps to ensure that great people in JVC continue to do great things for those in need, helping to make our communities, cities, and the world a better, stronger place for all).

After the hike, we arrived at Blue Ridge Summit, where it all began last August, for Dis-Orientation, JVC’s closing retreat, joining the other half of JVC-East. Here, I earned my first ever “F”. No, no, we didn’t receive grades as JV’s (we all know I’d get an A+, duh), but we officially finished our year as Jesuit Volunteers and became Former Jesuit Volunteers (FJV’s). It was an odd few days. We all knew we would be saying goodbye at the end of Dis-O, but we all kind of pretended it wasn’t actually ending. So, what did we do? We had a great time together, that’s what! We had ample free time to spend together, heard from FJV’s about post-JVC life, hung by the pool, dined on the finest of foods, and celebrated a successful year.

On Friday morning, we ate, packed, said a prayer, and said tearful, yet joyful, goodbye to one another. It was then that it hit me that JVC was over. It hit me that this amazing group of people meant a ton to me, and that we’d probably never all be together again. It hit me that my new life was starting. And it hit me that I had truly been “ruined for life” as the JV tag-line says. Not to be overly dramatic, but never again will I be able to look at the world in the same way; I know too much now. JVC has opened my eyes to so much, and made me think in ways I never really thought possible. I look back at the me that started JVC, and, really I’m the same Tom O’Keefe. But so much has changed, too.

And now, here I am, almost 2 full months into my new job at Cristo Rey Jesuit, moved into a house with good friends Nick and Rick, and making a life in the great city of Baltimore. Way back in August of 2009, I wrote of starting JVC, “It’s scary, nerve-wracking, a little bit sad and a little bit happy, but mostly it’s a truly exciting time.” I feel a lot of those same things now. But really, it’s different, and I can’t really explain the feeling, but I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And that’s a great thing.

So, I guess this is the end of TheVolunteacher. I really enjoyed writing in this space. It was a way for me to fully flesh out and reflect on what I experienced. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read it. Your support means so much.

Keep spreading the good word, remember that life is good, and stay well.

Peace,

Tom


The Homestretch

July 6, 2010

As of today, I have just one month left of JVC…

Wait, let me say that again because I’m not sure I quite believe it.

As of today, I have just one month left of JVC.

No way! That’s crazy-talk. How is that possible?

Image via tpower1978

Oh, but it’s true. This year has absolutely flown by. Like wicked fast. And now, today, summer school starts and I start my new job, splitting half-time with my JV duties as a summer school theology independent study supervisor for July (I’ll start the new job full-time after Dis-Orientation at the beginning of August).

Since the school year ended on June 16, I’ve been helping to prepare for the summer programs at school, visited New York City (where I subsequently spent my entire stipend), went home to Massachusetts (where I was subsequently doted upon- “Hey, Tommy, would you like another post-golf Sam Summer? Or would you rather a Blue Moon before we sit down for the steak dinner you picked out?”), and celebrated America’s birthday with a big group of JV’s in Washington D.C.

So, it’s been a relaxingly exciting few weeks for Mr. O’Keefe.

Now, we’re nearing the end, the singing lady is clearing her throat in anticipation, and we’re about to tee off on the 18th for the 4th quarter of the 3rd period.

In one month’s time, I will be a genuine, card-carrying adult person complete with a (paid) job I care about, a commute, taxes and insurance (FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!), an income (wait, was that covered when I mentioned the job is paid?), my own place (well, shared with roommates), and the ability to do my own grocery shopping (actually, I’m really excited about that part for some reason).

I know I have a bit of a history of describing things as both “scary and exciting,” but I think this situation calls for it… again. The JVC chapter is ending, which is a bit sad, but I really can’t wait to start the next chapter. Hey, Life, bring it on!


“Why Would Anyone Wanna Leave Baltimore?”

June 16, 2010

I have some great, great news!

The Cristo Rey Jesuit Corporate Internship Program has hired me as a Corporate Sponsor Representative!

I could not be more excited for this opportunity. My time at Cristo Rey has been truly amazing, and I can’t wait to continue working at such an amazing place, and live in such a great city.

I’ll explain more about the position in a minute, but first, I think some big thank you’s are in order:

Mom and Dad- Pretty cool, huh? You’re oldest son has a job! Thank you for ALL of your love, support, and high expectations throughout the years. If there’s anyone who had unrelenting faith in me, it was you!

Friends and family- Your love and loyalty has meant so much to me through the years. Thank you!

Cristo Rey Jesuit and the people there- I wouldn’t want to stay if this year hadn’t been such a fantastic experience. Your devotion, love, and hard work inspire me every day! Thank you all!

JVC and Community- If not for JVC, I would never have had this opportunity. Also, thank you to my community, JVC Arrupe House. I’ve learned so much from you all this year. You’ve pushed me in ways I never thought possible, and your support for me has been so important to my year.

The People of Baltimore- I had no idea that I would come to love Baltimore as much as I do. Its people, places, and unique personality make it a place where I want to stay.

Okay, so, the job itself. Like I said, I’ll be working in the Corporate Internship Program as a Corporate Sponsor Representative.

The thing that makes Cristo Rey unique from other schools is the internship program. Each student, in addition to completing their college preparatory education, must work 5 days a month at local organizations like Legg Mason, Under Armour, and Mercy Hospital. In turn, these corporate sponsors, pay a portion of the student’s tuition. Recently, the Baltimore Sun covered the program wonderfully in much more detail.

My job will be as a liaison between the students, the school, and the corporate sponsors. It’s an amazing program and I’m honored and excited to be a part of it in such a great city!

Plus, as Bodie Broadus said in The Wire, “”Why would anyone ever wanna leave Baltimore? That’s what I’m asking.”


The Sounds of Silence

May 11, 2010

I’m a pretty extroverted person. I like talking. I like listening to others. I enjoy sharing conversation and laughter. So, when I learned back in August that JVC would hold a mandatory Ignation (read: Silent) Retreat, I was pretty nervous.

Ignatian Retreats, the longest being 30 days, have been a Jesuit tradition since the order’s early days, and have been a way for people to become closer to God through silent reflection, meditation, discernment, and prayer.

Ours was 40 hours long at the Loyola House of Retreats in Morristown, New Jersey. JVC provided us with various activities including prayer services, an all-night Peace Vigil, meditation, and yoga and resources like spiritual direction, books on personal growth, and prayers, but, otherwise, we were on our own in silence.

Like I said, at first, I was really nervous about spending so much time in silence, but the retreat actually came at the perfect time for me. I haven’t exactly been overwhelmed lately, but I’ve definitely been “whelmed” with community obligations, friends, work, and some big decisions coming regarding my future.

The retreat gave me time to bring God back into my life and my decision-making.

I was able to meet with my spiritual director for the weekend, Toni Moore-Duggan (from Baltimore, incidentally), twice during retreat for help in the best ways to reach out to God and listen. She advised that I think of God as a friend, rather than a judge, within me, who is continually reaching for me, guiding me, and talking to me. After that, praying and talking with God, rather than at or to God, became infinitely easier for me. I began praying out loud and started and ended my conversations with God with a specific prayer. It kept me focused and more able to listen.

Did I come away with all the answers? No. Am I now spiritually enlightened? No. Those things will take some more time to figure out.

I did, however, learn how to bring the G-man into my decisions and my every day- simply by looking, listening, and feeling.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God.”

How and where do you hear God? How do you reach out? Have you ever been on a silent retreat before? How was your experience?


April Travels

May 3, 2010

Okay, I’m back. I know I haven’t posted since the very beginning of April, but this year ain’t over and neither is this blog (gosh darnit!).

It’s been a busy month. The winter has quickly turned to spring (or summer if you take into account that it’s currently 80 degrees at 11am as I write this!), and, boy, has it been nice to walk out the door in the morning without a coat!

Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to while away from the blogosphere:

  • After returning to Baltimore from a relaxing Spring/Easter Break at home in Massachusetts, the housemates and I made the trek southward to meet up with the Washington D.C. Jesuit Volunteer communities for a cookout. It was a perfect way to kickoff spring, plus the folks down in D.C. are top notch and a welcoming bunch. (By the way, you should check out their blogs, and other JV blogs, here)
  • On the 12th, we had our monthly dinner with the Wheeler House Jesuit community. As usual, the food was deee-lish, and the company was great. The Jesuits even donated some new kitchen supplies to us. It’s amazing how supportive they’ve been all year!
  • On the weekend beginning on the 16th, Scott, Kelly, and I made an epic, weekend-long journey, hitting southern New Jersey and the Connecticut JV communities in Bridgeport and Hartford. On Friday evening, we stayed at Scott’s family’s house in Pittsgrove, South New Jersey (I had been told that South New Jersey is a totally different state than North New Jersey, and now, I believe it! What beautiful country!). The Donovan’s welcomed us like long, lost sons and daughters and treated us with food (meat!), drink (good beer and soda!), and cable television (in HD!). On Saturday, we drove up to the Bridgeport Community intending only to drop off Kelly and pick up our friends Jeff and Alex to head to Hartford, but, instead, we spent the entire afternoon with the Bridgeport Brigade, and ate some dinner with them. They’re a pretty cool bunch, too! Finally, around 9pm, we arrived in Hartford to celebrate any early Cinco de Mayo with the 7 ladies of Agape House. It seems to be a weird pattern with JV communities, but the women of Agape House were fantastic hosts, and it was great to see them and my favorite Villanova “frienemy”, Karen. Finally, on Sunday, we made the long drive back to Baltimore (but not without a quick pit stop in Pittsgrove for lunch of course!) to begin a new week.

    My greatest of frienemies, Karen.

So, that was my April in a semi-long nutshell.

May should prove to be another busy, but great month. On the docket, I have a Baltimore Tweetup (when you actually meet Twitter friends in real life- weird, I know), a visit to the Philadelphia JV community, our Silent Retreat (yes, complete silence for a weekend), a potential http://tweetvite.com/event/BmoreTequilaTweetup party for our house, Stand Up for Comedy night with CRJ, and, my birthday on the 28th.

Have a great week, everyone, and I’ll see you when I return from Silent Retreat!


Built-in Support

March 11, 2010

Each year, hundreds of Jesuit Volunteers (and all people involved in programs like JVC) are thrust (willingly, I might add) into something unlike anything they’ve likely ever done before. How are you supposed to go to a new city, live with 5 or 6 people you’ve never met, start a challenging new job, and live on $85 of spending money per month all at once?

Image via "plentiful"

Well, JVC, for one, does something pretty amazing: they provide JV’s with support. Support from former JV’s (FJV’s), neighbors, Jesuit priests, bosses, and co-workers. JVC will even connect JV’s with volunteers from other programs, even if they’re rivals, heathens or *gasp* both (just kidding).

Here’s a few ways we get support here in Baltimore:

  • 2 FJV Support People – Earlier in the year, our two FJV Support people, Steve & Leah, came to our Spirituality and Community nights to participate and give us feedback for any problems or questions that we may have. We also each met with one of them for a one-on-one in which we could talk about challenges we’re facing.
  • An FJV Network – There’s a pretty darn good network of active FJV’s living in the Baltimore area and we’ve been lucky enough to get together with some of them on different occasions. In the fall, a group of FJV’s meets in Patterson Park for frisbee; this winter, Scott, Stacey, and I have been playing on an FJV-infused broomball team; we’ve hosted a couple of Pot Luck Dinners at our house with FJV’s; and the FJV’s always make an effort to invite us to different events and activities where they’ll be too. Being able to participate in these things has given us a sense of belonging in the city and the fact they they did JVC too is huge. That, and the FJV’s are some pretty cool folks!
  • Jesuit Priests – A group of Jesuits live down Guilford a few blocks from us, and, each month, they invite us over for mass and dinner. They’re an amazing group of caring, giving, and loving men who would stop at nothing to help us in any way.
  • At Work – Our bosses at our work sites know that we’re JV’s, and they know that we’ve committed to more than working at their sites this year. They regularly check in with us and are responsible for making sure that our housing, food, and travel are all up to snuff. Our co-workers also know that we’re JV’s, and, at least at Cristo Rey, teachers and staff are always good to use, whether it’s giving us tips on things to do in Baltimore or feeding us (read: meat!).
  • Other Volunteers – Earlier this year, we got together with another other groups of volunteers like the LaSallian Volunteers, Mennonite Volunteers, AmeriCorps Volunteers, Lutheran Volunteers, Mercy Corps Volunteers, and Bos Seccour Volunteers. We keep in contact with them and get together now and then.
  • Villanova Alumni – I know this is a bit more personal, but I’ve been lucky enough to happen into a group of Villanova alums who have been very good to me this year, always inviting me to Villanova basketball game-watches, making us food, or simply buying me a drink. Plus, I often visit a few friends of my own from Villanova living in Baltimore.

The support this year has been amazing, both from JVC and outside JVC. I honestly don’t know where I would be if not for the many people that provide us with this love and support.It lets me know that we’re a part of something greater, that it doesn’t end this year, and that people are appreciative of what we do. After this year, I’ll be sure to pay it forward.

So, if any of you are reading this…

THANK YOU!


8 Things I’ve Learned This Year

February 1, 2010

I know I’m a teacher this year, but I am constantly trying to be a student of life. So, inspired by Emily Jasper‘s post, “Lessons I’m Learning From Being an Adviser and Teacher”, I’ve decided to share some things that I’ve learned (or learned to do better) this year working at a school and being a Jesuit Volunteer.

1). PATIENCE. To work with kids, you must be patient. Not everything goes to plan and it’s so important to realize that high school students… are high school students.

2). Trust. Great relationships don’t just happen over night. They must be built and nurtured to create a sense of trust between both parties.

3). Community isn’t easy. People have different views, expectations, passions, and habits. It’s so important to be accepting of each other and to be aware of these things. Concessions, sacrifice, and awareness are integral parts to any community and it’s something I’m constantly working on!

4). Eating vegetarian (most of the time) isn’t so bad after all. Seriously, I eat healthier in better quantities and have been able to expand my food repertoire considerably this year.

5). Teaching is hard. Holding the attention of a high schooler for 50 straight minutes is no easy task and you must be ready for anything. The teacher’s I work with are so dedicated and caring. They set the tone and are great leaders and people. I’ve learned that teaching is not for me, but that it is a job that people don’t appreciate nearly enough. This being said…

6). I love the one on one and small group interactions I have with students. It’s the highlight of my day when I tutor or get to work with students individually. I’ve also been able to create a level of trust with many of my students and hope that they get as much out of our conversations as I get from them!

7). The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever. – A Bronx Tale. So true. And especially true for my students.

8). Blogging is incredibly fun.



Who I Live With Part V: Amanda the Advocate

January 3, 2010

This post is the final piece of a five-part series of interviews with my Jesuit Volunteer housemates in Baltimore. Parts I, II, III, and IV can be found here.

Baltimore City Detention Center

The last, but certainly not the least (none of them are, of course), of my housemates is Amanda White. Amanda is completing her second year of JVC here in Baltimore and is, comparably, the old, crotchety woman of the house… minus the crotchety part. In reality, Amanda is a confident, driven woman and her experience, positive spirit, and get-it-done attitude are an asset to the community. She hails from Louisville, Kentucky, has a sometimes-subtle southern accent, and attended Georgetown College in Kentucky. Amanda works for the Public Justice Center in Baltimore as a Legal Advocate and will pursue a career in law. I’ve learned a lot from Amanda’s work and she’s helped to open my eyes to a totally different population than I expected (more on that below).

I sat down with (e-mailed) Amanda with a few questions to tell you more about what she does. Here goes:

What’s the Public Justice Center?

The Public Justice Center (PJC) is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization founded in Maryland in 1985 that seeks to enforce and expand the rights of people who suffer injustice because of poverty or discrimination. The PJC advocates in the courts, legislatures, and government agencies, and through public education and coalition building. Current projects focus on tenants, workers, immigrants, prisoners, homeless children, families needing medical assistance, and creating a right to counsel in civil cases.

You’re a Legal Advocate at the PJC. What does that entail? What types of projects do you work on?

This year I am assisting lead attorney, Wendy Hess, on the Prisoners’ Rights Project.  The goal of the project is to improve the poor medical and sanitation conditions within the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC).  The project takes a two-prong approach: a class action lawsuit and individual advocacy.  In 2003 the PJC joined forces with the ACLU to bring a class action lawsuit against the BCDC. Rather than seek a monetary award, the lawsuit was intended to affect the medical treatment and sanitation standards at the BCDC. Currently, the State and ACLU/PJC are working on a settlement, which we hope to have finalized in 2010.  The only issue left to litigate will be heat, or the issue of adequate temperatures within the jail. My role in this part of the project is fairly limited, but I mainly help collect the necessary legal documents and information, such as taking detainees’ declarations.

During the course of this lawsuit, the PJC has also offered individual advocacy for men and women being detained at the BCDC.  Staff and trained volunteers meet with detainees who experience urgent medical issues.  After conducting an intake interview, the Prisoners’ Right Project Team (a.k.a. Team Awesome!) makes a judgment call on the best course of action.  Sometimes that might be educating the detainee on the best way to obtain adequate medical care.  Other times that might be actually sending an advocacy letter on behalf of the client.  I assist in conducting these interviews, training the volunteers, maintaining the client files, and attending Inmate Council Meetings (weekly meetings where representatives from each housing unit come together to discuss current detention center issues.)

Outside of these responsibilities, I tackle other side projects as needed.  Right now I have been focused on researching the issue of trying juveniles as adults for our project “Just Kids!” Along with our partners, the PJC hopes to help issue a report with recommendations regarding this issue.  I also sit on the Baltimore Open Society Institute’s Coalition of Criminal Reform Advocates, and I have worked with the Maryland State Bar Association’s Criminal Reform Section.

The diversity within my job responsibilities has been a great learning experience.  What I love about the work has been the eye opening and humanizing experience of putting faces to a generally forgotten population.

You’re in your second year with JVC. Why a second year? What did you do last year?

When I first entered the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I knew that I wanted to do at least two years of service before applying to graduate schools. There hasn’t been a question in my mind since I graduated that I not only wanted to make a career out of serving others, but a life.  My first year as a JV really set a great foundation for the lifestyle changes I was hoping to make, but I thought a second year would cement the values.  This experience is unlike anything that I will probably ever do again in my life, so I want to get as much out of it as possible.  So far, the year and four months I have spent as a JV have been some of the most transformative months of my life.  There is so much to learn and so much to just take in.  I like to think of it in the sense that my first year was about observing and studying the structures that keep individuals stuck within the cycle of poverty. My second year is a continuation of that process, but also time to start analyzing the ways in which I can begin to affect the different phases of the poverty spiral.

Last year I worked at a neighborhood center in Syracuse, NY.  I was the Program and Tutoring Coordinator for an elementary after school program.  From 2-5pm Monday through Friday, I and three other co-workers entertained and attempted to educate 60+ children ages 6-12 years old.  For one year, I lived and breathed the lives of my kids and the neighborhood I worked in.  I held conferences with their parents, ran a food pantry twice a week for neighbors, attended local school performances, and organized holiday parties.  Now my new office is covered in pictures of my “babies.”  I try to call them once a month, and look forward to heading back to NY to visit them.

Fun fact time!

I was a Girl Scout from the second grade through my Senior year of high school.  I sold cookies to pay for a whitewater rafting trip on the New River, a long weekend in Gatlinburg, TN, and a Spring Break cruise to the Caribbean. But my favorite part was the annual fundraiser we held – a Father/Daughter Square Dance! Yee-haw!

Yee-haw, indeed! Thanks, Amanda!

Photo via Autonomy.

Who I Live With Part IV: Rachel, Beans, & Bread

December 7, 2009

This post is part IV of a five-part series of interviews with my Jesuit Volunteer housemates in Baltimore. Parts I, II, & III can be found here.

So, I’ve kind of made a big deal about the lack of meat in my current diet with JVC (it’s been four months and I’m barely alive!). Well, it’s all Rachel Snyder’s fault. She’s a vegetarian and just a terrible, terrible person on top of that. She always forces her views on others and makes them eat vegetarian. Rachel is just awful to have around and nobody likes her…

…I’m just kidding! Just the opposite is true, actually. Rachel’s great! She works at Beans & Bread and, is passionate about helping the homeless. She also knows Worcester pretty darn well as she graduated from Holy Cross, my father’s alma mater (Go ‘Saders!). So, without further adieu, ladies and gents, my housemate, Rachel Snyder.

You’re a caseworker at Beans and Bread. Tell us more about Beans & Bread and about what you do there. What’s a typical day look like?

Beans and Bread, a program of St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, is a homeless outreach center located in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore. The resource center provides many services to the clients who come in, including case management, housing placement, a hot meal, and clothing assistance, among other services. The goal is to meet the clients’ basic needs, but also to provide them with the resources, support, and tools needed to become self-sufficient.

There are also two housing programs affiliated with Beans and Bread. One is a transitional housing program for men (20 spots) and one is a permanent housing program for chronically homeless individuals (60 spots).

I’m a case worker, which means that I see clients on a walk-in basis and try to connect them with resources and other social services in the area. I meet with eight clients per day (the first 8 that sign up each day), three days a week, and spend about 15-40 minutes with each, listening to their story (as much or as little as they choose to tell me) and about what brings them into Beans and Bread. I then try to connect them to the resources they need. If they need clean clothes, I provide them with clothing; if they are looking for housing I discuss some housing options with them and assist them in the application process, etc. People come into Beans and Bread with various needs and I am often the first person they meet with in their process of meeting these needs. If a client comes through case work and needs more assistance than I can provide in the short amount of time I am able to meet with them, I refer them to a case manager who can meet with the client on a more regular basis.

I find case work to be challenging at times, but extremely rewarding. My interactions with clients often bring me great joy, especially during those times when I am able to successfully work with a client to link them with housing or other services because I can see a hopeful change in the situation, and often in the spirit, of a client.

Why did you want to do JVC and work with the homeless?

I grew up in a home that stressed service work and the attitude of “to whom much is given, much is required.” I grew up occasionally volunteering at soup kitchens and doing other service work. When I went to college (Holy Cross in Worcester, MA) I took many sociology and religious studies courses that explored social inequality and poverty. I went on a couple of mission trips to the Appalachian region and was actively involved in the student volunteering group at Holy Cross. I volunteered at Abby’s House, a homeless shelter and resource center for women, for three years and led this group during my senior year. Through these experiences, I felt God calling me to give my life to working for and with the poor and marginalized in our society.

What’s been most challenging for you working with the homeless?

There is a huge lack of affordable housing in many cities, including Baltimore. The wait list for Public Housing in Baltimore City is several years! There are also lengthy waiting lists at various other housing facilities and programs. It is frustrating when you meet with a client who is in desperate need of stable housing and the resources are just not there. I often wish I could do more for the people I meet.

How do you feel about homelessness? What measures can we take to prevent it? How should we treat the homeless on the street?

The issue of homelessness stirs up many feelings in me. I am saddened by the fact that so many people live in unsafe, unclean, or unstable situations. I am deeply saddened when a client comes in and tells me he’s been sleeping on a bench at the harbor for the past week. I am frustrated by the fact that there is not enough affordable housing. I am angered by the existence of unjust social relationships in our society, which often cause and perpetuate poverty and its consequences.

Last year Sheila Dixon, the Mayor of Baltimore, implemented a 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. Some of the strategies include creating more affordable housing and providing greater emergency and preventative services. Initiatives such as raising the minimum wage and providing after school programs are also intimately tied to ending homelessness. Preventing and ending homelessness is a huge task – but through the work of social service agencies, such as Beans and Bread, and progressive policy initiatives, I am hopeful that we can make a significant impact.

Individuals can make an impact as well. You can write to your state representatives to ask them to support your local social service agencies, you can volunteer your time to serve a meal at a soup kitchen, and you can treat the homeless people you see with respect and dignity. At Beans and Bread, one of the central beliefs by which we operate is that each person is just that – a person. And thus, just by the sheer fact that they are a human being, they have certain rights, one of which is human dignity. So the next time you see a homeless person on the street, look him or her in the eye. Maybe even say hi or offer the person some food.  Acknowledge their humanness.

Aaaaand… Fun Fact!

I fell in love at age 5 – with otters.  They have been my favorite animal since my family went to the Monterrey Aquarium in California when I was in kindergarten. To this day, I still squeal when I see an otter, just like I did when I was 5.

Thank you, Rachel!

On a similar note, Danny Brown (@DannyBrown), a person I greatly admire, and the 12for12K Challenge, a charity supported by social media (Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.), are focusing on homeless awareness this month. Check out more information HERE and stay tuned for a post from me on the importance of hands-on service.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.