The Real Meaning of Poverty This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , , PA
I will never forget the way I felt in that homeless shelter in New York. I never truly knew how fortunate I was until I saw how little some people have. Visiting the homeless shelter opened my eyes to what it really means to be poor, and gave me a new insight on life.

Last year, in the summer of 2009, me and about twenty other students from Calvary church traveled to New York City on a mission’s trip called New York Go. Although I was excited, I was a little nervous and unsure of what to expect because it was my first mission’s trip without my family. Arriving at our destination was much more of a surprise than I expected because I had never seen such a run down place. We stayed at the Soul Saving Station, a small church in Harlem that served as a homeless shelter every other day.

After we had woke up and showered on the second to last day, we went to get our breakfast, where they informed us that we would be splitting up into separate groups for the day. The group I was assigned to was supposed to stay at the soul saving station, serve food, and interact with the homeless people that came to the shelter. When they opened the doors, people started to enter the room, and I was deeply shocked by what I saw. Feeling embarrassed, I almost wanted to leave because of how nice we looked compared to them. When we were assigning jobs, I volunteered to wash dishes in the back because I was afraid to interact with any of them, and thought that was a good way to get out of it. Little did I know, the conversations I had that day would have a positive impact on me in ways I will never forget.

As my friend Dan and I were washing dishes, my youth leader came back and told us we needed to switch jobs with other people and go interact with the homeless people. My heart sank, and I became very nervous as I walked out into the room where the homeless citizens were eating lunch and looked for someone to talk to. I scanned the room for someone who I felt comfortable approaching, and of course I didn’t find anyone. At that point, I realized I had to get outside my comfort zone and talk with people from a back round I had never encountered before.

Finally, to my relief, something stuck out in my head. A man was sitting down alone wearing a New York Yankees hat and I decided I would talk to him. I nervously approached, asked if I could sit with him, and got an immediate yes. The conversation started off with everything about baseball, our favorite teams, who we thought was going to win the World Series, and so on. Farther Into the conversation, I became more comfortable and started to ask about his life. He began to tell me that he barely ate anything outside of the food he got every other day at the shelter, and I was deeply hurt. I find myself complaining about not getting enough food I like all the time and some people go days without anything.

The depression and hopelessness I saw in the homeless shelter in New York will never leave my mind. I saw what it truly meant to be homeless and starving, a term many
people use to say that they’re a little hungry. The people I talked with in New York will always be in my heart and I will forever have a new insight on life.





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