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The Fight of a Lifetime.

December 2, 2009

I am proud of Nashville.

One week from today, on December 9th, the city will host its second Project Homeless Connect. We are a bit behind some other US cities when it comes to this project, and we do have a long ways to go to get nearly 4,000 people off the streets. But! We are headed in the right direction. We have a committed group of people dedicated to seeing their hope become a miracle.

I have been struggling with this issue for quite some time now. This is the one that pierces my heart, and it always has since the time I was little. I think it started with my Christian beliefs and feeling called to help the needy. But the more I learned about it… the more I realized that there are innumerable reasons why we must act against homelessness. Both morally, philosophically and fiscally.

So, when i finally got the courage to start doing something… I went to the rescue mission, I went to the mental health center. I served soup, I gave toys to homeless children. But more often than not, I found it extremely hard to see that I was making a real difference in the lives of the homeless I worked around. The last thing I want to do is be negative about serving in these ways. I think it is a great thing especially in educating yourself on the true state of your community. And these homeless men, women and children did have a profound impact on me. However, I do think it’s necessary to be honest here, in order to focus on what is most efficient and best helps our neighbors and friends. I found it hard to have a full-time day job and still play an integral role at one of the places of service. Something needed to be done to integrate all of the services that the homeless need. Something that utilized the hundreds of people yearning to help. (To make a sizable difference in their community, not just to rack up more community service hours.) And, most of all, something needed to be done to end the causes of homelessness, not treat the symptoms.

And, that’s when I found Nashville’s Project Homeless Connect. I heard about it through a friend, who knew I was looking for a new way to serve. So I researched it, became excited about it and took off a day of work to be there all day. I wanted to see. Would it really work? A one-day event designed to give the homeless the services they most need AND want to get off the streets. Services ranging from social services, IDs, housing, jobs, haircuts, new shoes, medical treatment and on the list goes.

The answer was yes. And that one day last year has given me a new outlook and hope for the homeless population in Nashville. No longer do I see it as a neverending cycle. But as a situation that can be defeated. Needless to say, I’ve been counting down to this year’s event for a year now. I’ve probably talked about it more than others wanted to hear. 

A friend asked me “Why?” I think his words were something like this… 

Why help those that don’t try and help themselves? Why spend your time working on a event for the homeless when there are others that need AND want your help?

Wow. That just lit a fire under my feet not to mention inside my heart. Who am I to judge why someone is in the position they are in? I didn’t choose mine, not really. Who says these people don’t want help? I can assure you that they do. Most of them ARE looking for jobs and are trying to get off the streets. And even if a person does nothing to relieve themselves of a situation, does that mean that they don’t deserve a better life or a helping hand? I don’t believe so. Sometimes you find yourself in a rut, and you’re okay with that because it’s all you know now or you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I refuse to sit down and let these people lay on the streets without doing anything when we can do so much.

Homelessness is often a terrible cycle. One that it is very hard to get out of once you’re in it. There are many attributing factors, but the two biggest groups affected in Nashville are victims of domestic violence and veterans. Two groups of people that have given so much to us. And we leave them on the streets. On the streets! I sleep in my warm bed each night, on a full belly. And a man that spent years fighting for me, sleeps without a coat on a warm air vent outside my place of work tonight.

Does anyone else see something wrong with this? He can’t get a job, so he sleeps outside of where I work. Because he put me first. 

So what’s the point? The point is love.

The point is NOT guilt. When guilt becomes the point, love gets lost in the shuffle.  Guilt helps NO ONE. Love helps everyone involved. As Andy Davis sings…

Love is not just for some of us… Love is bigger than us.

So, that’s my why. I hope people continue to ask me why. And I hope that the fire never ceases to burn within me. I love because I was first loved by you. I care for others because I was first cared for by you. I do not take these things for granted, but will use them as learning moments on how to spread my blessings. Love is not give or take. Love comes from the overflow. There’s enough of it for everyone. And then more.

Pastor Martin Niemoller’s words break my heart everytime I see them… because I think what he said still holds true. If we were to think of others as ourselves, it would change a lot.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.

We can help the homeless. Our neighbors. Ourselves.

For more information on volunteer opportunities at Nashville’s event, click here.
For more information on Nashville’s plan to end homelessness, visit: www.thekeyalliance.org

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Courtney permalink
    December 2, 2009 1:58 pm

    I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but you are an incredible human being. Unbelievably inspirational, Ben. Truly.

    • December 4, 2009 7:47 pm

      It’s hard to take a compliment knowing that I’m just trying to give back what’s been given to me. But thank you very much, Courtney. It’s people like you that encourage me to keep on trying.

  2. December 4, 2009 11:54 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my blog Ben! I love yours!

    Nice to meet a fellow blogger out here in the blogosphere =D

    • December 5, 2009 10:08 am

      thanks Alex! I always enjoy connecting with new people. Keep up your good writing.

  3. December 4, 2009 11:56 pm

    Oh and incase you’re wondering, I agree you seem like a fantastic person. Keep up the amazing work Ben!

  4. December 5, 2009 2:52 am

    Wow, that seems like a really cool project! What other cities in the US are doing it too? Do you know if it’s international? Like perhaps does Melbourne, Australia have a chapter?

    I am really glad you’ve found something that makes you feel alight. I think that is really important not just as motivator to do good, but for personal satisfaction, too.

    The thing that makes me alight is climate change…particularly sustainbility and energy efficiency.

    Good for you, you amazing human you!

    • December 5, 2009 10:04 am

      Hey Deidre,

      Thanks for your comment. The project originated in 2004 in San Francisco, and (according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness) it has now grown to more than 221 small towns and large cities throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Puerto Rico and in… AUSTRALIA! From my research, it looks like there are projects in Perth and Brisbane. Which I guess are pretty far from Melbourne :/ I wasn’t able to find much more on additional ones…I hope that helps!

      And I wish you the best of luck on your journey and goals in regards to climate change. You have my support!

      Ben

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