It rained that night at Elizabeth’s.
“Yes!” Jun said, a triumphant smile spreading over his face. “I wanted this to happen!”
If looks could kill, Jun would have been facing a firing squad.
There was a sense of accomplishment the morning of our final day of homelessness. Jun handed each of us a toothbrush and toothpaste he’d stashed in his bag.
That green toothbrush was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
That day, we worked with the Mad-Housers, building part of a hut. We were exhausted to the point of collapse, but it was nice to be a part of the organization that gave people like Joe safety and shelter.
And at 4 PM that day, I had a home again.
I promised myself a lot of things that week. That I would stop taking showers for granted. That I would appreciate my temperature controlled dorm room and fluffy mattress. That I would never complain about Lils, because even our less-than-inspired dining hall food sounded better than eating Kroger peanut butter ever again.
But I know that’s not true. I know I’m going to complain about Lils, and how my bed isn’t as comfortable as the one back home. How it’s so annoying that it’s raining when I have to walk across campus for class or that my shower only has lukewarm water.
Because life goes on.
But here’s a promise I will make.
I promise to stop letting homelessness be someone else’s problem. I promise to not let the complexity of the issue scare me away from attempting to find a solution.
I promise to advocate for the less fortunate. To give a voice to the people who’ve been told they cannot have one because they don’t have a roof over their heads. To remain educated about issues of social justice. To vote responsibly. To vote always.
I promise to try to never burn bridges, and to forgive those who did. To have love in my heart for those who feel as though no one would care if they died. To hold off on my judgement of those who have fallen upon hard times, for I do not know their story. To reject the stereotypes. To stop letting the assumptions of society influence my own view of right and wrong.
I learned a lot about the strength and tenacity of the human spirit, as well as the amount of compassion I found in this seemingly ugly world. About how hard it is to be homeless, and how hard it is to get out of it due to the systematic oppression that is so prevalent yet so ignored.
This blog is titled 500 shades of homelessness because each person experiencing homelessness has a different story. And while there is no cure for this monstrous cancer in the foreseeable future, we can take the web apart one strand at a time.
To all the beautiful people I met this week, you’ve changed my whole life. I will never forget you.
And to all the beautiful people who have made it to the end of this blog, I hope it made you think, because that’s all I can really ask for. I implore you, don’t stop after reading this. Do something, anything.
Maybe one day, it’ll be enough.