In her Irrational Season Madeleine L'Engle writes about the importance of people being moved with compassion for people, not causes. Of course causes are important, but it is encounters with the leper, the homeless person, the refugee, the marginalized that move us with compassion that certainly can evolve into passion for a cause. It is encounters with people that move us toward causes, and rarely the other way around. My federal advocacy and event planning work at the National Alliance to End Homelessness is spurred and informed by knowing Leona, David, Roger, Tom, and many others.
In Eastern Market a vendor displays a painting that focuses on a homeless man, and he is surrounded by robots who do not notice him. Many days I do feel like a robot as I join the metro march to work for the common good, and there are many days where it is easy to ignore and block out the homeless man right in front of me. On days when I do stop, these encounters with people experiencing homelessness refreshingly ease the hum drum and call out the human in me. And I like to think the times that I stop and I am present to them, I too ease the hum drum of the panhandling and the scrounging for food and the bone chilling cold, and that with a smile and snarky comment about the Redskins, I too call out the human in them.
Some of the joys of this project have been the excuse to spend more time with neighbors who are homeless, and to share stories of these folks I am continually getting to know. I've greatly enjoyed collaborating with other Houghton alumni. A challenge of the project has been navigating how to share stories without exploiting or over-romantizing the experience of homelessness.
Guest Writer: Jaime Colman
Jaime Colman does advocacy work and event planning for the National Alliance to End Homelessness. She graduated from Houghton College with honors in Intercultural Studies and Sociology. Prior to working at the Alliance, Jaime interned with World Vision International. Her interests include the social experience of persons with disabilities in developing countries, international development, and homelessness. Jaime is an avid birder and sojourner of faith.