“‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:31
Earlier this year as I was heading to class on an early morning train ride on the Chicago L. A downcast young man hopped on board. He began speaking in a trembling and nervous tone, with his eyes down to the ground, not to anyone specifically just to anyone who would listen. “I am embarrassed to say this or to even have to ask for help from strangers, but I have no more options. I am homeless, cold, and hungry and I need help.” Tears started streaming down his face as he said this. He was not asking for money, but for someone to buy him a meal, or some soap and deodorant so he could clean himself up for an interview he was going to have in a few days. I looked around the train and was astonished not to see a single person pay this man any mind. Just ignoring him as if he were invisible.
I told him he was very brave to speak and ask for help from a bunch of strangers. I opened my backpack and gave him a knit winter cap that a friend of mine made for me, one of the pairs of gloves I always had in my backpack and the apple that I had not yet eaten from my breakfast. He graciously accepted my offer and then I asked if he would like to sit next to me on the train. We sat and he began telling me about how he was just 18 years old and had been living on the streets for a few months after running away from his abusive alcoholic father. He then went on to tell me that since living on the streets he’d began to feel invisible, no one would really give him the time of day. Most people would avoid turning their heads in his direction at all. He felt as if he were being ignored into oblivion. He then began to tear up and said something I will never forget “Being out here with no one can kind of drive you mad, especially when everyone around you just acts as if you don’t even exist to begin with, and you reminded me that I do.”
We were nearing his stop, so he hugged me with a smile on his face and thanked me for showing him love, for listening and talking with him. I told him to never give up, to stay strong and no mater what the big man upstairs always loves him.
When I was looking for what was next on my path of life, I thought a lot about this interaction with the man in the train. I wanted to do something to help the people of our aching world, now while I’m young and have nothing to tie me down. My sister Stevie, who was a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in Tucson Arizona working with those in the borderlands in 2010, pointed me toward the program and encouraged me to apply. I checked out their website and found the Atlanta site which was solely focused on helping those struggling with homelessness. I applied immediately and felt that this was where God was calling me to go.
Recently a family friend of mine asked me what I hope to bring to those I’ll be working with down in Atlanta, and it really got me thinking. I told him that I would like to instill two things in people that I meet in, not only Atlanta, but anywhere in life; love and hope. I believe that those two things are essential for life to thrive.
I believe that we as humans on this earth, no matter race, gender, age, class, or religion are all brothers and sisters. We are all one in this world and we need to do what we can to help our family of man. In the words of one of my favorite people, the 14th Dalai Llama “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
You can support me in this next year in many ways with…
• Your prayers: pray for me and for the people with whom I will work this year.
• Your interests in my journey on my Year of Service: Follow my blog, The Breath of Life is Whisperings of Love, at www.jeremydemarest.wordpress.com You’re already here, so bookmark me, you know you want to!
• Your financial gifts: Please consider giving a tax-deductible gift and pledging an amount, given as a one-time gift or in installments of the course of my year of service. Complete and mail the attached Covenant of Support form and checks to “DOOR National Office 430 W 9th Ave Denver, CO 80204, or you may give online at http://www.doornetwork.org/donate and include “Jeremy Demarest-Atlanta” in the donation designation box.