Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in which we spent the morning portion of our day canvassing DC neighborhoods informing families and individuals about the importance of fire safety and the free services available from the fire department. While this was important for the communities, I found the afternoon to be much more intriguing.
A year ago today I was doing a similar service trip in Camden, New Jersey, in which i met a homeless man who changed my life. His name was Mister Eddie Marshall. When I first met Eddie, we spoke for the whole day. I learned he had a masters degree in Psychology, served in the army, and discussed with him about religion, politics, education, and life in general. After this great experience however, upon my arrival to the shelter the next day, Eddie was intoxicated and acted in a completely different manner. It upset me to speak with him again, this time interacting with a seemingly different individual, speaking nonsense and dozing in and out of sleep. I think what most upset me was to witness this sad sight in a man with so much potential and so many things to offer.
Our afternoon in DC was the “urban plunge” asking us to see what it was like to be homeless, and to interact with others within the homeless community. While my group was not fortunate enough to hear the story of any particular individual we encountered, our team discussion was enlightening. The other groups all had greatly different experiences from each other. Each encountered different sorts of people, and had conversations about different aspects of homeless life. While this discussion was going on, I was reminded of my encounter with Eddie a year ago. Hearing these other stories gave reminded me once gain that not all homeless people are alike, each having their own backgrounds and current situations. It gave me hope to remember that there is possibility in everyone to fulfill their maximum potential and make life better for themselves and maybe, if they are fortunate enough, for others as well.