The Habitat for Humanity club’s recent event Box City sparked some controversial feelings about the purpose of engaging in activities in solidarity with others.
Many expressed displeasure at the participants’ presumption that they could even begin to imagine themselves living a homeless life. Indeed, how could our little experiment, decked out with DeNaples food, working bathrooms and dorms nearby, begin to compare to a life without shelter or even food?
Moreover, why do we need to ‘raise awareness’ of homelessness? How efficient is sleeping on the Dionne Green in terms of telling others that people are homeless? Do we need to confirm to anyone that, indeed, homeless people exist?
Admittedly, I had reservations about the significance of Box City. As we were building the ‘box forts,’ I took exception to the enjoyment we were getting from the childlike activity done in the name of solidarity. It simply felt that it should not have been that fun.
That being said, I failed to keep in mind that though we do not know what it means to be homeless, our intentions were not maleficent. Though our actions may have come off as callous (and perhaps they were), we were at least trying to understand solidarity, however futile the attempt may have been.
Our reflection event Monday night was led by senior Michelle Dougherty and consisted of stories of impoverished and homeless people who visit the St. Francis Soup Kitchen. We broke into small groups and discussed some of these stories on the DeNaples patio. As we reflected, several groups of people walked by and snickered and jeered at us. They cared little that we heard their comments or that we may have been offended by them.
And we looked ridiculous, no doubt. But again, our motives were benign. And if we hate others’ digs at us for at least trying to practice solidarity, how much greater is the transgression when we, as people blessed with livelihood, look down at those people who not only live differently, but do not have the means to change such a fact?
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