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March 29, 2011 / HandsOnCorps

One Step At A Time

Today’s guest post comes from Ashley Cannady, an AmeriCorps National Direct Member serving with HandsOn Network.

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of the homeless in your community? For me that word was ‘helpless’. Helpless was a word that reflected the mentality towards my capabilities to rupture any kind of negative cycles in their lives. Sure I can drop change in a cup, I can hand out food and engage them with interesting conversations and listening ears (something that I started doing about 5 months ago on Friday nights with friends), but every Friday night they were still sitting there in the cold, waiting. Waiting for the unknown, maybe a warm place to rest for the night or the ability to feel like they can trust someone to watch their things while they take a quick walk down the street, but none the less, waiting for you and me. You know that story about giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish? I’ve always wondered if that statement is complete. I think that after not knowing how to fish for oneself for so long, once someone is taught, there is a sense of accountability needed.  We in turn become somewhat responsible for that person, ensuring they don’t give in to the desire to retreat back to depending solely on others to accomplish his/her needs.

I got the opportunity to organize a volunteer project where my fellow staff members and I volunteered for an organization that helps the homeless become self-sufficient. We used the mock interview toolkit from the site. We also helped with resume prep. I got to talk to a lot of interesting people with amazing stories…some that perplexed me as to how they ended up there. I was so impressed by them, it was an encouraging time! I felt honored to be able to encourage them! After talking with the Director of the program though, I discovered that many of them will relapse, many of them will go back to old habits once they start to make a little money on the job and many will be back in this very in another 30 days. They will forget how to thread the hook, how to cast their nets, how to fish.  In spite of how tragic that may sound, there is so much hope to be gained from this experience. What if someone walked beside these men and women and actually devoted time, devoted themselves for 30 days after the classes finished? Maybe the majority of them would continue on the right path. Serving that day was a great experience. I learned so much about the value of building relationships and taking someone by the hand, holding the rod with them as they cast their line. My hope is that as we serve others we’ll experience mutual growth between ourselves and the people we help. After that day as the students received tools for self-sufficiency, I received a doing away with the feeling of helplessness towards the homeless population in my community.


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