By Jennalynn Ferraro
Over this Martin Luther King Weekend, I went to Portland Oregon with the teen group here at the temple. Our main focus this year was educating ourselves on the homeless population in Portland and what we can do to help. We visited a small village that takes in homeless people called Dignity village, while we were there we learned about the thousands of reasons one could become homeless and or houseless. It was so interesting to hear some of the stories of why
people became homeless or why they decided to leave their homes.
After taking a tour of Dignity Village, we went to another village called Hazelnut Grove, where our task was to disassemble a small house that they no longer needed. That was one of the best experiences ever, I got to learn how to use a power drill and I found out that I am much stronger than I thought. I learned the true meaning of teamwork and how you don’t need more than four girls to take apart a tiny house.
After our volunteer work was done we went on a midnight run where we handed out coffee, sandwiches, and socks to people in need, although my group didn’t see too many people and the walking was tiring it was so worth it. Whenever we would give someone a cup of coffee, socks, or a sandwich the amount of gratitude they showed was absolutely incredible. When I would hand someone a cup of coffee their response to me would be “Thank you so much, God loves you” or “God bless you.” Knowing I could help someone just by offering them coffee was crazy. I realized that the smallest thing can make a huge impact on someone’s life.
From the time we were all kids we were taught to stay away from strangers, and maybe don’t interact with every homeless person you come in contact with, but the thing we all seem to lose sight of, the saddest thing is that we forget they are human to, and humans need love and sometimes help. Stopping on the street to say hi or maybe buying someone some food or even quickly smiling can change someone’s mood immensely. It is so important to remember that it’s okay to need help and it’s okay to ask for help and it is most certainly okay to help others.
One of the days we visited an area with a bunch of food trucks, my friends and I were walking around deciding what we wanted to eat when I saw this guy walking around asking people for money so he could get some food, begging everyone for a dollar or two and all I saw was him either being ignored or shrugged off and that broke my heart. I decided to go into my wallet and pull out $15, when I found him and gave it to him his face light up. I shook his hand and said “Here, this is for you,” he thanked me a thousand times over and I stood there talking to him for five minutes, just that interaction, him being treated like a human and not a street rat brought him and I both to tears. That just goes to show that you have the power to help, you have the power to make someone’s day. That power should be used because it can not only change your life but their lives as well.
This trip was an unforgettable experience and I am so glad I was apart of it.