If You’re Doing It For the Thank You, You Aren’t Doing It Right

Since starting the Facing Project, I have become aware that our community is facing many problems in relation to homelessness. Witnessing people who are facing homelessness has become more prominent than ever. I grew up in another country and the only place I witnessed homelessness was in the city – where thousands of tourists gather and are more likely to spare some change, opposed to people living in rural areas.

Society has changed and we are not in the same place we were in fifteen years ago. Our nation is more divided than ever and society has turned a blind eye to homelessness. I’ve always been consciously aware of this problem, especially when I’m in the city. As I walked along Fifth Avenue in New York City, I witnessed a homeless man scramble through a black trash bag trying to find any food that he could get his hands on. Surprisingly enough, it was the remainder of a drink from a Starbucks cup that he was gripping so tightly.

Shortly after we began the Facing Project, I witnessed a homeless man sitting on a local bench one miserable, Sunday morning. Without a second thought, I made the trip to my favorite coffee shop and bought him a hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll. This is when it really hit home for me. Slightly apprehensive, I approached him and had to remind myself that I was stepping into his area of safety; his home. I was not expecting a thank you, but I was expecting something; anything. Slightly bewildered, he looked at me and didn’t say a word. I let him know that I had bought him a hot dink and some food and that if he wants it, it’ll be right beside him, and that was it.

As I left, I had so many different thoughts and feelings running through me. I would drive by each day to get some coffee and it broke me inside to see that three weeks later, he was still living there. I’m sure he was eternally grateful for what I provided him with on that miserable Sunday morning, but he just seemed like a stranger to society. We are all fighting our own battles in life, but facing homelessness is something that we cannot understand, despite the fact that many of us say we do.

During the Facing Project, I have learned that homelessness has no stereotype and that if you are looking for a “thank you” when you do something beneficial for someone facing homelessness, you are not doing it for the right reasons. The Facing Project has not only encouraged myself, but encouraged my whole class to interact and listen to the stories of people facing homelessness. Based off of our experience, I would strongly encourage anyone to do the same.

Jasmine Brewster