I appreciate this challenge from this guest post from Ryan Snow. I’m so sorry he didn’t include any links. If he sends them to me, I’ll be sure to include them.
Recently, I tried to challenge myself to go outside of my comfort zone by getting to know the homeless a little better. Here is an outline of what I did if you want to try it yourself:
- For one week give $1 or amount of your choosing to every homeless person you see (Set a cap if you want I set mine at $50)
- When you give them the dollar introduce yourself and ask them their name(Try and start a conversation if possible)
- BONUS points: Journal/ reflect on your experience
- Be ready for some interesting/ powerful encounters
This challenge really gives you a chance to better understand homelessness and the people you may encounter on a regular basis. Below I will give you some details of the people I met while following this outline.
Living in Chicago I run into the homeless all the time. One man Jackie sits outside my apartment. He reminds me of a character you might see in a movie. An outspoken large man who never fails to crack a joke and say hi as you pass by. It wasn’t weird at all talking to him, since I do so already and felt nice to help him out a little bit. I did take the time to go a little deeper into conversation with him. He told me he has been homeless for a few months since I moved into the apartment 4 years ago. He recently started receiving disability and hopes that soon he will move into an apartment. It was nice to take the extra time to ask him a few questions. It was nice to hear that hopefully soon he should be able to get off the streets and have a home.
Another man Joseph I had seen every once in awhile before starting the experiment was always friendly saying good morning as I walked by on the way to work. He was the first person I ran into for the experiment. He seemed delighted that I took the time to ask his name and to introduce myself. Later in the week he was helping clean up outside a shop on my walk home. I was glad to see he had found some work to help him make ends meet.
The third man I met was Willie. On my home from work I walked past Willie everyday. He sits on the ground sort of curled up in a ball leaning against a big concrete flower pot. The giving part is easy it is the talking part that was most difficult in this challenge. For months I have walked by him and now all of sudden I am going to give him a dollar and talk to him. I was unsure how this exchange would go. After introducing myself Willie told me his name. He thanked me for the dollar and said he sees me everyday and asked about where I was coming and going from. It was cool to tell him that. I wonder how many of the same people he sees everyday not knowing where they are coming and going from. Now I talk to Willie almost everyday, he tells me he is glad that I stop to talk a little bit. He said he gets bored sitting there, but is not really able enough to find work.
This was a great activity to do. It took me out of my comfort zone, helped make my day positive (hopefully their day as well), and now I have formed some relationships with people I walk by everyday. I would encourage others to try this activity. The major lesson learned from this activity was that it is important to treat people like human beings. Whether you give money or not I think it is good to respond to the people you see instead of ignoring them. A little response can go a long way.