Over the past couple of years, November has become a month I both dread and look forward to. After a year’s worth of hard work in planning and coordinating a two-day, state-wide homelessness awareness conference, it’s finally over and my stress level (at least for the time being) is subsiding. Particularly since Liz and I were co-presenting in a workshop session, my nerves were jumbled more so than they otherwise would have been. But we made it through and we even got people excited about data! The conference actually made me re-energized and inspired to continue doing the work that I do. Even though it was a very long, tiring week what made it all worth it was the ability to showcase everything we’ve been working on and inspiring and calling others to action. It really is a cool feeling!
Perhaps the part of the conference I love and look forward to the most is hearing testimony from those who have experienced homelessness. This year, we had two panel discussions. One was composed of homeless youth and the other of formerly homeless individuals. I am always in awe of the ability for each and every one of these people to get up on stage in front of a room of strangers and bear their soul. It takes so much courage and is something I admire and respect very much. Their stories inspire us to think differently and to recognize that homelessness isn’t just an idea but it’s a person. Their stories remind us that positive outcomes do come from such a challenging time. Working so closely with these individuals over the course of the year is such a humbling experience. I walk away feeling extremely grateful to my parents that I have never had to want for anything. My basic needs and a majority of what I didn’t need has always been met by the constant support and love from my parents and surrounding family.
If you’re looking to give back to your community this holiday season, I hope you’ll contact your local homeless shelter, Salvation Army, or soup kitchen and give a few hours of your time in whatever way you can.