COMMUNITY DROP-IN #3: CHALLENGE PERCEPTED

This week is reading week and today in particular is my birthday. To start off my day, I figured I would take the chance to go to the homeless drop in for lunch with JL before heading out to treat myself on macarons and other delectable treats.

This is my third time at the drop in but my first time here for lunch. I don’t ever have days off so lunches are never really an option for me. Today’s menu: waffles with ice cream and strawberry (YUM!). JL and I came late, so we missed out on the ice cream but I thought it was kind of ironic that today was my birthday and they were serving a “birthday-type” of dish.

We sat down at the table closest to the drinks. The nice thing about sitting at this part of the room is that with more traffic going through here, the more chances I have with meeting individuals.

A guy who JL met during her placement here last semester came over to catch up with her. I ended up meeting a very interesting guy who grew up in a very negative childhood. The thing about talking to people here is the kind of stories that they entrust you with. Some of them can be very deep and emotional. I never asked questions that required him to share his childhood struggles with me but he didn’t anyways. I strayed from sharing much about mine.

When I know that an individual went through a hard childhood, I am taken aback and my childhood runs through my head. My childhood was rough but not as rough as others. Even though I had support, many of the times the support was more of an expectation. When I didn’t meet them, I felt a sense of failure but I still had some sort emotional support.

This guy I met I will call Jake. He’s about 6’2, obese, Caucasian and dressed in all black. He had always worn black because he didn’t like bright colours, and he also didn’t think he looked good in other colours. Women who wore all black were considered very beautiful and powerful as well. I think he just had a thing for the colour black, but from the way he was talking to me about it seemed like there was more behind his reasoning. I expressed to Jake that black in my culture was a sign of death and evil. So for someone who enjoyed wearing black and found others who wore black appealing, I found it odd because to me it means evil and bad luck; something not to be liked. Not that if you wear black, you will have bad luck… just that the two are associated with each other. He found my view on black odd.

Although this is my third time, I find myself growing fond of this community and the characters it holds. I think the reason I most enjoy about coming to these drop-ins is the different perceptions people have on life. It is interesting to see how something matters to one person may not matter to another, or even what one person’s opinion is on a topic versus my own opinion.

Perhaps it is just me, but I find it most appealing when I am challenged in my thoughts. It’s fun hearing what people say and countering it to get them to say more. However, it’s also dangerous because I could be offending someone else in turn. I think Jake and I clicked in terms of conversation. He never found what I said offended and I never took offensive to what he said. I embraced his opinion because at the end of the day, not everyone is the same. People should not be treated any differently on how he/she looks. If a normal business man was telling me the same thing, before this project I would’ve accepted it more easily than if Jake had told me.

When it comes to the stereotypes of homeless individuals are heartless, you’d be surprised at how caring and sweet some of these individuals are. Using the homeless on the streets as an example, they may seem tough when you see them in public, but once you see them at the drop-in you see their true self.

After being accepted into their community, I am starting to see more indifference between myself and the underserved. At the end of the day, we are all striving to survive. Some just have it harder than others and because of that, we shouldn’t segregate ourselves from them because of it. If we do, then we are continuing to increase the conflict between the two social classes. It is already the extreme of each other; we don’t need to make it anymore than it is.

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