I spent four hours last night delivering clothes, food, and toiletries to homeless people on the streets of New York City. With an organization called Midnight Run, which I am the marketing chair for here at Hofstra University, our committee has been collecting donations and planning this trip since March.
We collected hundreds and hundreds of clothing donations. We also got a tent in our donation bin. The thoughtful person who donated that was definitely thinking outside the box to help the homeless.
The night before the Run, we spent a few hours sorting through, organizing, sizing, and boxing this enormous pile of donations.
The following day, before we left for NYC, we made and packed 100 sandwiches, chips, and cereal bars into goodie bags to hand out.
We packed the bus and van, and finally headed to the city!
The night turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We made four different stops around Manhattan, where homeless people would approach us and ask for clothing. It was the best feeling to be able to give them the exact pair of jeans they wanted, or the warm jacket they needed. The smiles on their faces when I would hold up a nice pair of clothing was the cutest, most priceless image in the world. They are the people in the world who really mean it when they say, “Thank you.”
Most of them seemed happy, a concept I found odd when I thought about their living conditions. They loved to talk to us and share their experiences. Some of them had jobs, and most of them didn’t even look homeless. I met a young man who used to work at Nordstrom as a manager and quit to learn guitar. You can find him in Union Square, where he spreads his peace, love, and music.
It wasn’t a sad experience, but an enlightening one. It made me feel grateful for the bed I sleep in every night and the home I wake up in every morning. But it also made me feel alright knowing that it’s possible to have nothing and still be able to smile as big and with as much sincerity as they did.
Even this guy was happily showing off his dance moves in front of Penn Station for a small crowd of people.
I guess the lesson here is that the outside gives no preview to what’s inside. Remember that next time you see a homeless person. One of them used to be a professor at Columbia.