Today, I spent my Saturday afternoon in the downtown east side. It's been a while since I spent time there for the sake of spending time there, and it was both difficult and wonderful at the same time.
Rachel, Oobie, and I spent our day meandering in the rain, getting lost, and making conversations with strangers. We saw things we expected, like homelessness, loneliness, poverty, fear, and brokenness, but we also saw things that were surprising like welcoming faces, laughter, openness, kindness, and hope.
It was really hard for me sometimes, because it made me feel selfish and stupid. I felt like it was so dumb of me to sit in my warm home and worry about things like what I'm going to wear tomorrow morning and what people think of me. It really put into perspective how much time I use to love myself when there are billions of other people for me to care for. And thinking about that makes me feel really helpless, because I have no idea how to put those feelings into tangible actions.
But today, I met this woman named Rose who I will never forget. I bought her lunch, and we ate together and shared stories at Carnegie Community Centre. She loves Hello Kitty and met her boyfriend at church, and we found common ground with a love for shopping and fashion. She is blunt, funny, and gives back to the community even when she has so little. My heart broke for her when she told me that women in the downtown east side don't get treated too well, and that she gets bullied quite often. She wouldn't share certain things about her past, because she told me they were too sad to talk about. But she was also so filled with joy, and she said to me, "People always ask the wrong questions, like where I live and whether I'm a working girl. Why does that matter? It doesn't define who I am."
As much as I know it's wrong to be selfish and pursue things that are self-satisfying, I also know it's dangerous to be swallowed up by sadness, guilt, and helplessness.
Because there is always, always hope. There is hope, because there are places in this world where the homeless can make music. There is hope, because Rose told me that she knows that she is good and that she is beautiful (which is more than I can say about myself sometimes). There is hope, because I believe that people will never stop trying to help and feed the homeless. There is hope, because I know God puts a passion in people's hearts for the downtown east side, and that passion is a powerful, driving force that can change anything. There is hope, because some people will leave and never come back, which is perfectly okay, but some people will leave with a burning desire to a be a part of and to love on that community, which is beautiful.
PS: This is my beautiful friend, Christine Wu, performing at the Totem Talent Show. She is a quiet person, but so, so bold in her music. I love watching her sing and perform, because she does it in a way that it's so obvious that she's using every ounce of her talent for her Maker.
She won first place with her medley of Bach Cello Suite No.1 Prelude, Beautiful Things, and Awake My Soul, and I think it was very well-deserved!
Also, isn't she SO cute?!