By Seung Yong Lee
“Pray it Forward” was different from the other volunteering opportunities American University of Health Sciences (AUHS) had offered previously. When I participated in community outreach events such as Health Fair, the students and I stayed in the university parking lot and the people who needed free groceries and other services would come to us. However this time, the students went to the people of the community.
My peers and I were given $40-60 worth of five-dollar bills to give to the homeless. We walked and drove to many different places in the community, looking for people in need of help. One of the places we visited was Downtown Long Beach, an area that we knew several homeless people resided. As we walked around we encountered countless individuals who were homeless and who were trying to survive the harsh winter with only tarps and blankets.
The first homeless man I came across was a 70-year-old U.S. Army Veteran who wished to remain anonymous. He told me that he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and he eventually got addicted to street drugs trying to cope with his pain. I asked him if he received any therapy or treatment for his addiction problem. He said, “Yes,” but in the end, the therapy did not help him to quit. He was never married and he had no family. He was alone. It made me feel blessed and honored to speak and pray with this veteran who sacrificed everything for this country.
We handed $5 to every homeless person we came across. They thanked us and we felt blessed to be able to help them. After handing out the money, we prayed together and asked God for a better life. After two hours of walking around the neighborhoods, my peers and I met over 50 people.
In the beginning, I was afraid to approach the homeless, because I had preconceived notions that they were dangerous and they were nothing but addicts and troublemakers. “Pray it Forward”
helped me open my eyes. People who are homeless are human beings who are in difficult situations in life. They have different hopes and dreams and they all have a story to tell. ven though they are struggling, they are doing the best they could to make it another day. Every homeless person I met that day was kind, despite their current situation. We should all strive to understand one another and to give to those who need it the most.