I remember a story my parents told me once.
They lived in the Soviet Union, where everyone got stamps to exchange for food. One time, someone stole theirs, and they lived off two stale loaves of bread for a month.
Here in the States, I remember when I was young, my parents would go out every Thanksgiving and buy a roasted turkey from the local ShopRite. They wouldn’t bring it home, though. We opted for more traditional Russian food for our own meal. Instead, my parents would bring the turkey to a homeless man who lived on a nearby corner. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember his smile.
I remember the night my mom held me and cried for what seemed like forever because she was drinking too much and was stuck between jobs. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I just wanted her to be okay. Poverty and homelessness can take a heavy toll on anyone, but I know that even from their murky depths, the boundless human spirit will always shine on.
These are the cold thoughts and memories that floated to the surface as I walked through Columbus House and met Alison Cunningham, the CEO. One thing she said struck me: over half the people who are homeless or come through the shelter aren’t there for long. These people manage to pull themselves out with little help.
It’s a comforting thought, and it’s good to know that Cunningham and the wonderful people at Columbus House are there for those in more long-term situations. It made me think: How many of these transient people are just like me? How many are college students who got unlucky or made a mistake? How many are 21-year olds sleeping in their cars, surfing couches, and going to class every day?
It’s easy to think you’re untouchable, that it won’t happen to you. It’s easy to think that you’ll always have some place to go, some digits in your bank account… But all it takes is one bad day, and it could be any one of us out there with nowhere to go.
By Daniil Chupalov