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Knowing Everything

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“One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty, until you try." I couldn’t agree more with this quote by Sophocles, especially after an experience that I recently had.

Walking through our nation’s capital with my family, I couldn’t help but notice the number of homeless people sitting on the street holding out their tin cups with signs next to them saying, “Anything helps, God Bless.” Right away, I placed judgment thinking that they would spend the money given to them on alcohol or drugs. What a waste. Being fourteen years old, I had it all figured out. People were homeless because of drug use, gambling, and other addictions. It is clearly their fault. That was my mindset until a recent experience enlightened me.

During senior religion class my teacher announced that the entire senior class was going to spend the night on the football field in a box. I figured this would be an outdoor sleepover with friends, filled with fun with no learning.

The night of the “homeless emersion retreat” soon came. I headed to the football field armed with my cardboard box, pillow, and sleeping bag. My classmates and I began to set up our boxes preparing for the fun filled night ahead. Several of us were making casual jokes about sneaking out and heading to McDonalds for some late night food. Eventually, we were ordered to the metal bleachers set up at the edge of the football field. A short middle aged lady began her speech by asking what we thought the average age of a homeless person was here in the United States. My fellow classmate yelled out, “40!”, “No, 50!”
I was shocked to hear the average age was only nine years old. All my preconceived thoughts about people “deserving” to be homeless soon vanished. She continued to inform us about how difficult it really was to find work. This shocked most of the group, including myself, who are privileged with parents who have jobs and whose thoughts are not consumed with worries about making enough money to pay bills, or putting food on the table. The longer she spoke, the more horrible I felt about all the times I wrongly judged people.

The time came when I headed to my box to attempt to get some sleep. Fortunately, it was fairly nice out. I didn’t worry about rain or snow. However, sleeping was incredibly difficult and 5:30 a.m. couldn’t come soon enough. When I woke up, the first thing I did was head home and jump into the shower. While in the shower, I realized those that are without permanent housing do not have this luxury.

Even for only a night, this experience momentarily put me in their shoes. I learned by doing. I learned lessons that I will have for the rest of my life; don’t judge anyone and appreciate what you have. I know I am an understanding and compassionate person who does my best to not judge on outward appearance. I genuinely attempt to get to know people for who they really are. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to use this asset to the benefit of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.





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