Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012 9:52:30 PM
It’s easy to think about things we “need,” like an IPhone or new sneakers. It’s harder to think about the things others really need. I have at least five pairs of shoes, but a police officer in Manhattan recently bought a pair of boots for a barefoot homeless man. Like that police officer, I hope to be able to make a difference in people’s lives.
For the past five years, I have been volunteering at HIHI, Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative, an organization that provides food and shelter to homeless people during the winter months. When I heard about this at my church, I saw an opportunity to make a difference. Now I am a youth leader and I train other kids who want to help out. I blow up air mattresses, assemble cots, put together toiletry bags, and make lunch and breakfast bags. I also serve dinner and snacks. Although the work may be tedious, afterwards I feel good about myself because I know these unfortunate men are going to be warm for the night.
I think it is unfair when people are prejudiced towards homeless people. A majority of the guys that come to HIHI are Hispanic. Every day I hear kids make subtle comments about Mexicans, that they’re illegal immigrants and criminals. The people saying these things probably have no idea what they’re talking about. They are just reflecting society’s attitudes. But like Atticus Finch says in To Kill a Mockingbird, “ ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’” These men are coming from the poorest nations in the world and are just looking for an opportunity to make a scrap of money to send to their families back home. I understand why people do not want immigrants illegally coming to America, but our nation is supposed to be a place that gives everyone a fair chance. These men are already here, so, I feel we should give them a shot. Working at HIHI for the past five years has shown me what these guys go through every day and it isn’t fair. I want to make a difference by showing people that the homeless men deserve a chance.
I have brought many of my friends to come help out over the years. It has taught them what these men go through and has changed their views on Hispanic immigrants. It’s nice to be able to witness that because it lets me know we can change prejudices.
My little sister is asking for a tent for her American Girl Doll this Christmas. Last month, during Hurricane Sandy, a homeless woman died alone in a tent from a tree collapsing on her. People like my sister and me are very lucky. People like that lady and the men that come in to HIHI have no luck except for the kindness they occasionally receive from caring individuals.