By: Luis Chacon
Province Coordinator for Volunteers
Month after month we have carried out our homeless outreach, sometimes it is a bit difficult to find time for this activity, however we did not want to let the summer go by without doing this experience that always helps us to be more empathic with our brothers and sisters. On this occasion, the volunteers who came from Spain to make a difference in the lives of the children of Camp Savio and Camp Salesian accompanied us in the homeless outreach. Here is the experience of a Salesian missionary volunteer, Alejandra tells us:
In the training we had back in January with Juan Carlos Montenegro and Luis Chacón, we were told that on some weekend we would be invited to give food to the homeless. After a few weeks of having arrived in Los Angeles, Luis invited us to carry out this experience. We left De Sales Hall, arrived at St Joseph Salesian Retreat House and the adventure began. We pulled out 6 plastic tables and started making turkey and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches and headed to Skid Row.
Once there, I took a bag full of sandwiches and prepared to leave all the fears and prejudices I had to get the most out of this experience and he said that it was. The first question that we all asked was very simple: “hello, do you want a sandwich?” Honestly, there was no one who said that they did not want it, and some even wanted more than one bag. When we gave it to them, most of them answered “God bless you” or “God is with you”, this filled me with joy as we continued to walk along.
There was a moment I received an embracing hug from a lady who repeatedly told me: “I don’t need anything else to be happy”. I thought to myself, she had only received a bag containing a sandwich, a bottle of water, along with a pair of socks. It was then that I realized that happiness does not have a common scale, it’s not a one fits all, no person experiences happiness in the same way.
That lady lived on the street, apparently, she had nothing more than the clothes she was wearing, but she gave off a tremendous amount of love. She was grateful that we had been with her for a few minutes, and for having healed a wound. She tirelessly repeated to us that God will bless us for all the good we were doing.
The emotions did not end there, this was only the beginning. I saw in these people charity, love, interest, and a desire to talk with us and spend time getting to know each other, all things that I was not expecting.
Three situations that I also want to highlight are the following:
- A man who, after giving him food, came back to look for us to return the sandwich and tell us: “I’m allergic to peanut butter, I’m sure someone else needs this sandwich more than me”, honestly those words touched my heart. As I looked that man in the eyes, I saw an honesty that is hard to come by. We live in a self-centered world that many times blinds us from putting ourselves in others realities.
- After giving him the sandwich, another man stayed for a while asking us where we were from and what we were doing here in Los Angeles. A question arose within the conversation that surprised me, the man asked: “what do you have to do to grow old and not die young?” We all knew that the key was to be happy, to which he replied: “you know what you have to do, invest in yourselves.” I found these to be harsh but necessary words. On numerous occasions we go so fast through life, as my father says: “we look like a suitcase that goes from one side to the other without feeling anything”, we forget to stop to channel all the emotions/ experiences that life gives us, simply because we want to continue doing many things in a short amount of time. We want to do so much that we are not able to accomplish everything, which generates frustration and, in more extreme cases, depression.
- Finally, when we had no more snacks left, there were two options, the first was to go back “because we had already fulfilled our task” or invest the little time we had left and use it to meet more people who deserve to be heard. There was a man who assured us that he was going to end up in Madrid visiting us. He wants to go on business. He also mentioned that he wants to start playing American football and has a long list of goals, which he was clear that he could fulfill.
We all live in our own reality forgetting that others have a different reality. We need to get out of our comfort zone meaning we need to face situations that we would never have considered. We should face life with a smile, it is quite a challenge, but it is necessary to grow as people. Joyfulness is key to making our problems a little smaller and understanding that you are already serving those who need it most. I want to end by saying that there is no greater proof of love than giving our time to others.
Experience this yourself and join us on September 4th for our next Homeless Outreach!