How Do the Homeless Spend Valentine’s Day?
Don’t laugh. When I went to a homeless center for the first time, I was surprised how much some wanted to find love or even to start a family. Equally, I was surprised how generous some were. When one doesn’t have money, one gets really creative to show love. That makes me feel selfish.
“If you reduce people to whether they have money or not, you miss the point of what a human being is,” Dr. Martín Burt, Founder of Poverty Stoplight, said during an interview by UCI. “Consider culture, family love, and high self-esteem. It’s very important to ask people, ‘What is important to you?’ We need to learn compassion and empathy; we need to listen.”
Compassion and empathy are also what Dana Point calls for to gain “positive participation in working toward solutions” on homelessness. Yeah, we need to “learn” and “listen.”
“They’re homeless because they’re lazy,” Cathie Opila said at a wine-tasting party in her ocean-view mansion, before she visited Family Assistance Ministries, a local food pantry and emergency shelter. Then, she decided to volunteer because this gig could enable her love for food in a new way: handing food with her cooking tips to the homeless was fun and appreciated. Then, it became fulfilling. Then, five years passed, and she has been saying, “Anyone can become homeless.”
I do not want to think about that possibility for myself! But . . . reality is a different deal. UCI InSight Magazine has a collection of stories of homelessness in Orange County. I’ll share a couple:
- An ex-NFL player, musician and entrepreneur: “[Brian Andrews] sustained several hip and leg injuries from his time in football. He has received one hip replacement and is currently awaiting his second one. In November 2016, Andrews suffered a stroke, resulting in blindness in one eye. His hand and vocal cords were also affected by the stroke. Due to this, he is no longer able to play guitar or sing his songs.”
- A father: “When asked about his motivation in life, [Christopher Black] states, ‘My son . . . and myself. This is not the life I wanted for myself.’ . . . He really believes in the importance of moving forward based on merit and hard work, a quality that not many these days associate with the homeless, but a quality that they nonetheless have to exhibit every day in their struggle to survive.”
I can go on with more stories. But let’s forget the homeless for a moment; instead, look inward. I volunteer because it gives me opportunities to see our shared humanity. Consequently, I become less bothered when people do what I wouldn’t do. Some say they become more compassionate and empathetic. So the gain is personal, and possibly lifetime. If you’re interested in testing out this cause, too, I suggest a couple of easy do’s to start:
- For the community: Donate $10 (or more) to Family Assistance Ministries, select Dana Point Homes 4 Homeless as the designation.
- For economical and environmental justice: Throw no more food into trash. A third of the food in the US goes to landfill. Think about all the resources misallocated, the pollution, the unethical competitions, etc. Buy less. Give what you cannot use to charities, coworkers or neighbors.
While love is the theme of the week, share your love now. You’ll make someone smile, and you’ll be proud of yourself (some day).
Hoiyin Ip is often recognized on the street as the plastic lady for her cleanup work. But she likes to think of herself as a guardian of the ocean. She is often reminded of a quote by former California Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas: “The coast is never saved. It’s always being saved.”