An Encounter, A Story


Imagine it's a Friday. You just got out of school, there was a rapid dismissal and you got out twenty minutes earlier than you would have...

It is one of the first beautiful days of summer, and you feel amazing. The sun is shining through the trees, and you’re listening to your favorite song on your iPhone. You know that when you get home you’re going to feast on that bag of chips above the fridge and watch your favorite TV show on Netflix. You turn a corner on your way to the train station, and you see a man surrounded by garbage bags full of clothes, holding a cup and begging for money. You continue to walk down the block; what do you do? Give him a dollar? Walk by without any regard for his existence?

It is not a secret to those who live in the United States that there is a huge gap between the rich and poor, but seemingly over time this gap has grown bigger and bigger. According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a total of 578,424 individuals were homeless in the United States, including families, veterans, and individuals. Yet, this astounding number does not fully capture the horrors a homeless person experiences every day.

I have had many experiences with homeless people living in New York City, but by far the one that has stood out to me the most was a meeting on the boardwalk of Coney Island. In the midst of all the cotton candy and overpriced hats, there is also struggle and poverty. This particular day at Coney Island was cold and overcast. My friend and I sat in a kind of abandoned seating area, when a man sat down on the other side of the table. After a while, he told us his story, about his three kids in other states, his longing for someone to call, his struggles sleeping by himself on Mermaid Lane, and how hard it was asking people for money. He said that people would give him excuses like, “I only use credit cards” or “I never bring money with me to work.” He said it was hard watching people walk by with everything when he had nothing.

There's much work to be done, but there are still steps being taken on the larger scale. France enacted a new law making sure that supermarkets and restaurants give their unsold food to charity instead of throwing it away, giving new ideas to nations around the world. There are also organizations like the National Coalition for the Homeless who provide housing and safety for people struggling. Another organization is The Doe Fund, which provides jobs for the homeless. Organizations like these can always use donations and willing volunteers. Whether it's on a larger scale such as this or on a personal level, taking the time to listen to someone's story, there is always something each of us can do. 

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