Monday, February 28, 2011

Homeless in DC and lessons for my children


After visiting the Library of Congress we walked a few blocks down to the News museum. There were homeless sleeping on the sidewalks in Washington DC. Our national’s capital may not be equipped to care for the homeless? We live in the world’s richest country, we are the most productive, land of freedom and opportunity, and yet bundled up in blankets on a bench is a life. I remember twenty five years ago marching for student’s rights for minorities, and not allowed to sleep on Federal property, the metro police were out that night in force with a parade of motorcycles beaming their headlights into the temporary tent we set up. The officers would walk through and tell us not to lie down and gave directions to a homeless shelter. A few of us gave in. I wanted to experience a night in a shelter. We were given a blanket and told to watch our shoes and wallets, and given a spot on the floor in the church’s gymnasium. When I fell asleep there were a few of us on the floor. When I woke up, the place was packed. Many of the homeless choose to sleep on the streets. I see the bundles down on JFK Blvd in Philadelphia when I go out for a morning run, and I see them beg for money when I’m out for appointments. Before we took our train back to the hotel, a man was standing at the entrance for the metro station with a plastic cup. His face looked haggard and I put in a few coins in the cup, thinking of Jesus and showing my children that we can help in our own way. What surprised me last night was when I drove over to a friend’s house to pick up our dog, and Bella used the term hobo. It’s such an old expression, but we talked about being homeless and I pointed out, it’s not just men on the streets you see, but women and children your age. I hope they both don’t use the term hobo again since its derogatory, which was the word we learned last night.

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