The Lift took a trip to New York City this month! Two of our staff and our four Changemakers participants spent four days serving the homeless with New York City Rescue Mission, learning more about the inner workings of a nonprofit, and exploring new places together. Here’s what they had to say upon their return.
What is something you thought about that you had never thought about before?
Alec: What it would feel like to be homeless. I got a better understanding of the homeless and how all it takes is one minor setback to ruin a person's life.
Sandra: When we went out for Don’t Walk By on Thursday, I didn’t think about the fact that the diversity of our team of four in terms of gender and ethnicity and age was important, but it was. No matter who we spoke with, one of us had something in common right away.
Teli: I never thought about how many resources homeless people can get and the willingness of other people to help them. My other thought was how people of New York can live in such small spaces, especially without a backyard.
Aaron: I also never thought about how many different services there are for homeless people. Usually I think about the services in terms of meals and shelter, but that’s just the beginning.
Christopher: I thought about loss and respecting grief as a stage of healing during the trip. I’ve had a tough time recently, and the connections I made with my coworkers and some of the people we met helped me feel supported.
Cortez: Something I never thought about is how people in a busy city like New York move, and how much love can be found among all the strangers and craziness of the city.
What was your favorite moment from the trip? Why?
Teli: Favorite moment for me has to be the people we talked to and their stories. Being present with them and just being able to listen to them tell their stories. It really made it clear that these people just want to be heard and want people to talk to.
Alec: I have two favorite moments. The first one was doing Don't Walk By when this homeless man broke down crying cause one of the volunteers mentioned his friend who had recently passed. The man was shocked and upset, yet expressed so much gratitude and appreciation for what we were doing and seemed somewhat liberated after our interaction. My second favorite moment was the bonding between me and Cortez. It was emotional, but I feel like we have a stronger relationship because of it. We left for New York as friends and came back as brothers.
Aaron: My favorite moment was when Christopher and I unexpectedly got to talk for a couple hours.
Cortez: One of my favorite parts about New York was when we had the chance to actively search for the homeless in the midst of everyone pretending they’re not even there. Also bonding with my co-workers. It was like we were a family.
Sandra: Watching Cortez, Christopher, Teli, and Alec engage with strangers in meaningful ways was one of my favorite things. They took all of our tasks and roles very seriously.
Christopher: My favorite will be when I have more time to think about the trip. There was a lot that happened and I want more time to soak it all in.
Did this trip change you in any way, big or small? What is something you are going to do differently moving forward?
Christopher: Everyone at The Lift has been present and engaging through what I've been going through recently. I love what we do at The Lift, and being there for our coworkers, students, and volunteers is a part of that. Being in New York helped me realize that I've opened up to everyone and learned that I need to let others be there for me too. That's something I'll continue to do.
Teli: The lesson for me here is to be grateful for what I have. Thankful for the people in my life. Also understanding the power of being present and listening.
Alec: I feel like the trip has changed me in a big way. I learned to be grateful for what I have, especially since there are others who have substantially less and make the best of it. I'm also gonna have a completely different outlook on the homeless here in Minnesota, and treat them with love, empathy, and respect, as opposed to ignoring them like I did before the trip.
Aaron: This trip, especially the serving activities, made me realize how reluctant I am to approach strangers. I couldn't believe how much I didn't want to initiate conversations with homeless people. I think the process felt unnatural for me, and I knew that there was little chance I would ever see them again, so I was hesitant to start any sort of communication. Going forward, I think that will be less of an issue because I have not had the same resistance toward homeless people here in Minnesota. But I will be aware of that tendency.
Cortez: Moving forward, I will think more about what I could do back home to be present with our city’s homeless.
Sandra: I was reminded to see people on the street. It’s easier to look away, but even if I’m not offering socks and money, it’s good to smile and say hi—to acknowledge them as people created in the image of God.