I would like to take this opportunity to relate my experience volunteering at the Homeless Connect event in Lewis County at the SW Washington Fairgrounds.
Going into it I had my own perceptions and stereotypes of what it meant to be homeless or being someone in need. In reality I quickly realized I had no idea. What I witnessed was truly humbling. People who appeared to have nothing still maintained their pride and dignity. They weren't people lining up for as many handouts as they could get but rather for items they only needed.
Homelessness took on many forms. From the guy who chose to live "off the grid" whose only request was toilet paper to a woman who recently found herself facing for the first time the reality she was living in a car without a home a job and no money.
A man who struggled to find a dry place to sleep only to be chased off by the police three to four times a night to a woman who relished in the moment to be able to take a warm shower and wash her hair.
Hearing stories such as a man, with no regards to himself, walked 5 to 10 miles a day over and over searching for his cat, not stopping until his perseverance finally paid off and he was reunited with his faithful companion. That is true determination!
Seeing the sense of relief and appreciation on people's faces realizing they were receiving a helping hand for the most basic necessities made me realized how much I take for granted.
I volunteered my time in an attempt to give back to those less fortunate, but it was the people in need who gave me something that could not be bought. A sense of appreciation what is really important. There are lessons to be learned from everybody we meet regardless of their situations. Empathy, compassion and generosity take on many forms. I am thankful for this valuable experience.