On Thursdays I work as a front desk assistant at Healthcare for the Homeless downtown. My responsibilities there are the same as most front desk jobs, but here the main difference is the clientele I work with. These interactions with those people experiencing homelessness present several themes that resonate very deeply with both myself and the some of the readings we have done in class. One thing I always notice with the people I talk to is that they are always positive about their situation. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go day to day without knowing where my next meal would come from, or where I would sleep that night. Some of the poetry and stories we’ve read thus far has to deal with the ideals of beauty and what true beauty is, and personally I see true beauty in the people I meet every day I work there.
Every day presents a new challenge or two, but this week was particularly intriguing. The first woman I met was missing an eye and had scars all over her body—likely, as my supervisor informed me, from excessive drug use and fights she almost definitely endured while trying to scrape out a living in a very low-income part of Baltimore. As I began talking to her, however, we really connected. She has family in Philadelphia, where I grew up, and is a Phillies fan (though she tries to keep that quiet). She carried herself in a very positive manner for someone who had so little physically. Now, I didn’t fall in love with this woman, but my experience is easily connectable to Shakespeare’s “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”. At first glance, I thought of this woman as just strange looking—I know it’s an awful reaction but it’s one that many people unfortunately have. After further interaction, however, I saw that there was much more to this woman than her physical appearance may indicate, and that her true beauty was on the inside, where she was in actuality very similar to any of the people I might meet at Loyola on any given day.
Another man I talked with expressed a sentiment very similar to the end of “The Cask of Amontillado”. In our brief discussion while he waited for his doctor to come down and meet him, he explained to me that he had been in jail for a decade of his life for selling marijuana on multiple occasions. At the time, he told me, he thought it was perfectly fine and that he would get away with it. And even though, unlike the narrator in Poe’s tale, he was caught, he said he regrets the decision regardless of his prison sentence. His advice to me was to just “not be an idiot”, and then he laughed. It was really a strange sight to see, I would expect that a man who had spent so much time in jail would be much more pessimistic, but he seemed to take his experience as a rebirth more than anything, allowing him to collect himself and get back on the right track through Healthcare for the Homeless, among other programs.
Overall I find my experience with Healthcare for the Homeless to be very insightful and productive. The people that I meet here provide me with a real appreciation for what I have, and at the same time make me think about how they can possibly manage to be so upbeat and positive in the face of such severe adversity as experiencing homelessness. They truly have inner beauty that most people could only dream of, and every day I spend there makes me appreciate it that much more.