Saturday, March 24, 2012

Walk a mile in my shoes

It seems like just yesterday that we were lugging our baggage behind us wondering when we would arrive at our hostel; it was a long walk from the airport and the heat was getting unbearable...but little did we know that soon this would seem like second nature. Walking became a whole different concept to me during the 48 hour challenge. It was no longer a thing to be done for the sake of doing it. Walking became something new that tasted of desperation at times; we walked to find food, to find shade, to find rest. We walked a lot. We walked until our feet felt numb and became so used to the walking..that the pain of walking became a part of us. We woke up at 5am and started our day trekking the barely awake city. I had never been outside at this time, let alone in a city I was unfamiliar with, but I found my perspective shifting with those early mornings; I was awake because I was forced awake from my place of sleep [on a bench or the front steps of Macy's], but right at that moment, there were those who were  in their warm beds in their safe houses. I began to feel that painful twinge of lacking a home but at the same time I felt the streets were my home. I was free to the quiet of the dawn; those in their homes would probably never feel this simultaneous rush of fear and calm.

There is something that I heard countless times during our stay in D.C, that is: homelessness does not come with a manual. We needed to experience a majority of things that we may not have been comfortable with in order to survive and one of those experiences was walking extremely long distances in the heat and learning how to navigate the entirety of the city of D.C. Regardless of how bad of a sense of direction I had; apparently sense of direction is an innate behavior and it was certainly one I tapped into.

More than walking, I learned how important it was to rehumanize homelessness. Although, I may not have received very similar reactions from non-homeless individuals, through acts such as panhandling as well as listening to the stories of our wonderful guides (Steve, Andre, and John) I realized how much people dehumanized homeless individuals. To lack a home is not the entirety of your identity so to judge a person based solely upon that is truly sad. I believe my perspective of homeless people from the beginning of the trip may not be different from now in certain aspects, but my understanding of them has certainly grown. Due to our increased knowledge of the homeless population as well as our 48 hour experience, my empathy towards them has become stronger; I feel a closer bond to them. My overall perspective on life has changed; it made me think of what I take for granted in my own life as well as how we can have a better Universe if we all just took the time to understand each other.


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