Wednesday, March 27, 2013

San Francisco, Community

San Francisco, Community

Like most of my peers I had a preconceived idea about the homeless and what they would be like. Even though I had been informed about how the homeless population includes individuals who are living in temporary homes or families that are hopping from house to house, I was still shocked by how different my expectations are from reality.
Before I had often imagined the homeless to be living in isolation from one another without a feeling of belonging anywhere. I felt hesitant about approaching anyone and initiating a conversation because I felt that I could easily say the wrong thing or ask the wrong questions and offend someone.
I think the experience that radically changed my perception and forced me to step out of my comfort zone was the St. Vincent de Paul Wellness Center. On Monday we  had the opportunity to do more than just serve meals to our clients. Instead of solely focusing on providing the bare necessities for survival, we had the chance to reach out and nurture their minds and spirits.

I feel like I had the chance to see firsthand just what St. Vincent de Paul does for this community. During the mindful meditation session I felt humbled and inspired by all the calm faces I saw as everyone went deep within themselves to find inner peace. I was also amazed by how open and accepting people were to sharing their experiences and thoughts about the meditation.

My favorite part was the art program. It is not art therapy because the clients' art is not being analyzed, but it is just as therapeutic. That was the moment where I started opening up and asking questions about the collages that people were working on. I heard fascinating stories and saw just how hopeful these people were despite their circumstances. They were not afraid to tell me if they were recovering from substance abuse or if they had struggles with their addiction. I think these people were honest and welcomed me to their community. I also felt like they had so much more to offer me than I could offer them. I had nothing to teach them, but I felt that they were so much knowledgeable and well rounded than me which was really refreshing.
I think that these people were a great example of community for me. Despite their different backgrounds and opinions they were all fighting the same things together. I watched as two women hugged and made up after a misunderstanding. One of them said "I've known you for far too long to fight about little things like that." When I heard that, I realized just how long these people had been together. And even if their families, friends, and most of the world had given up on them, St. Vincent de Paul and the other clients at the Wellness Center did not.
That's what a real community is supposed to be

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