by Jess Wolfe
Students at Grandville High school collected over 200 hats, gloves, and blankets to be handed out in Detroit and Grand Rapids by High Hopes Hammock Co. CEO Connor Moynihan and myself. As a High Hopes Hammock Co. sales rep, I traveled downtown to Degage Ministries. It was an eye-opening experience and my perspective is forever changed.
Degage is a safe place for individuals living without a place to call home. They allow homeless people the opportunity to buy a low-cost meal, no more than two dollars. If an individual can’t afford a meal, they have the option to work a small task at Degage such as sweeping or wiping down tables. This gives them a sense of dignity when purchasing the food because they know they’ve worked for it. This program is a great way to keep individuals off the streets. Degage serves 400-500 people every day.
In addition to the winter gear, I also handed out bracelets donated by Cornerstone Church of Grand Rapids. The bracelets which read ‘Live Grateful’ serve as a constant reminder of the importance of living our lives with an attitude of gratefulness.
During the time I was handing out winter gear and bracelets, I had the chance to catch some of it on video. Check out what these individuals would like to say to the world…
When Robert saw a new jacket on the pile of winter gear, he was so excited. After putting the new one on he placed his old jacket on the table saying,
“I don’t need this, somebody else can use it. I can only wear one coat.”
Another man by the name of John was walking out when he turned to me and said,
“It’s better to give than it is to receive. It says that in the Bible!”
These interactions were so humbling and changed my perspective on how I perceive homeless individuals.
One woman didn’t want to be on video but allowed me to capture a picture during our conversation about life and what she is going through.
Regina explained to me that she reads the Bible every day and wants other people to know about the Lord but when she tries to tell people, they never want to listen to the good news she has to offer.
When I asked Regina what she’s most thankful for in life, her answer was simple.
“I’m thankful that I’m livin’.”
Later I asked her what she wanted to tell the world and she responded with a confident answer.
“Praise the Lord.”
It doesn’t get much more humbling than this.
When a homeless person values faith and hope so highly, it changes your perspective immensely. It was in this moment I realized I needed to break down the barrier of stigma between myself and those who are less fortunate.
“A lot of what life is about is just a balance of how I find the proper perspective on what’s going on, to step back and see a different picture.”
says Cornerstone Pastor Marcus Schmidt in an interview surrounding homelessness and living grateful.
“I think a general stigma with a lot of it is that, they’re lazy, that they have no desire to work hard, to pull themselves up and make something happen and in many cases that’s not true.”
Continual judgment forms stigmas. As a society, we need to break down these barriers built on our judgment and realize that homeless individuals are humans just like the rest of us. They aren’t helpless they just need a little help getting out of their circumstances. It’s not always their fault that they are down in their luck.
“I think in most of our society, we put this divide between those who have and those who have not. Most of us are just thinking we will stay away from those who don’t have what we have because they’re not worthy of our love or not worthy of our attention. I think it’s sad because these people want love, they want attention, they want somebody to care, they want to know that they’re not alone.”
This is a huge issue all throughout society. They’re just trying to make the best of their circumstance and live life to the fullest. Aren’t we all?
“The housing crisis in this area is a challenge as well because there’s not enough affordable housing. This creates a cliff effect that a family finds themselves homeless because they can’t afford to live where they’re living and they can’t find a job that is going to pay them enough to afford what their needs are. The supplemental help from the government helps them along but if they make too much money they lose the government aid so now they’ve taken five steps backwards and it’s a huge cycle that’s deeper than what we ever realize it could be.”
This is the cycle which often pushes homeless individuals down a path of depression and anxiety which is why it’s so hard to break this cycle of homelessness.
“I have become friends with a lot of people who were homeless and I wanted to fix all of them and you can’t, you can’t just do that because if I want it more than they want it, then it’s not gonna work.”
The best option is to help someone along the way, not to push them or to pull them, but to walk side by side supporting the homeless individual. This is what Degage and several other organizations around Grand Rapids are working to do. The homeless individuals have very little yet in the midst of their circumstances they are thankful for so much.
“Every time I’ve sat down to pray with them, the things that they pray for were like “God I just thank you for the air that I get to breathe today. I thank you for the fact that I had a meal.” And those are some of the things that I hardly ever pray for. The little things that I take for granted are very important to them.”
With a mindset of thankfulness, positivity moves to the forefront of your life, overpowering and outweighing adversity. Often times the things we take for granted in life are the most important things in which we should be most thankful for.
“God is working in every moment of every day in small ways that we just take for granted because of how blessed we are. This is something I’ve learned from my friends who are in poverty, that they don’t take things for granted that I do, so it’s helped me to change that perspective.”
Life is what you make of it. It’s not about the circumstance in which you’re living in. It’s about the way in which you’re living in the circumstance you’re given. Perspective can be altered. Sometimes you just have to see what it’s like to live in some else’s shoes.