Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thoughts from VIP Night.

Thank you for inviting me to join you last night for Lesley Delivers.

While it was called VIP Night, the true VIPs are you, the students!

I was impressed with your organization, your enthusiasm, and most of all, your sensitivity to the needs of the people we visited. Your thoughtfulness, respect, and kindness to the individuals in Harvard Square you have come to know is amazing, and I was never prouder of Lesley students than I was last night.

Thank you for inviting me, and thank you for what you are contributing to the Cambridge community each week.

Alice Diamond

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Wise Words from the "Standing Around Committee"

We all have a routine. We all wake up with some sort of idea of what we are going to be doing that day.
On Tuesday nights on campus we make sandwiches. On average they are peanut butter and jelly that go into a bag that has been decorated with pretty designs. We call this weekly act Lesley Delivers. Every Tuesday, (pretty much) I go out with my fellow classmates and give out sandwiches to the homeless. It’s something I look forward to and really enjoy doing. It’s a very active way of helping people. For the most part, we normally only interact with each other, and the people we are serving. Very rarely do we interact with random bystanders going about their day. We head out to Harvard square in Cambridge at around 10 at night so the streets are normally pretty dead. Normally. 

This past Tuesday we were expecting a big snowstorm. It was cold out and the streets were more packed with bystanders then I was use to. I found myself bumping into people on our route and surprised at how many people there were. One this particular route, we stop at the Harvard T stop. There are usually people there and we stand there for a bit and talk to them. We ask if they want a sandwich or any of the other items we had with us: hats, a blanket, or hand warmers. As we stood there, a man walked through us, sort of shoving us out of the way. While he did this he said “What is this the standing around committee”

I really want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. I want to think he was just having a bad day, he wanted to get home and was just tying to get to the train.
I want to believe that he was just having a bad day and his comment just came out of frustration of the day and not directed at us. I really want to believe all that.
But the thing is, for whatever reason he said it. That we were the standing around committee. That a bunch of young college students who were feeding the homeless, were just standing around in the cold for fun. We were helping. We were serving. We were helping people. He was not.

I don’t want this to come off like we are all that matters or something. I don’t want this is even come off like it was even that big of a deal. He just looked at what was going on, a made a judgment about what he saw that was not accurate at all. He was just trying to get home, and we were just trying to help people. I’m sure he got home, and I’m even surer that even though we didn’t give out many sandwiches that night, we helped 

I know that every Tuesday we will continue our service in helping. I also know that there will be people there and might be wondering what we are doing. My hope is that the people we encounter see the good we are doing and not just as "standing around".


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Homeless Need Help

I’m a “Site Coordinator” for a tutoring company called Tutor Plus, but tats not really important. At the end of the two and a half hours that I work on Tuesdays Zaenab, the “Site Manager”, asked me if I would be going through Harvard Square on my way back home. When I said I would be, she asked me if I would be willing to take the extra sandwiches of the day to the homeless who rest their heads there.

I got off the bus at the usual stop, Holyoke Gate. Before, riding the bus down the street, I saw a man in a heavy coat sitting on the corner, my first victim.

“’Evening sir. Can I interest you in a few sandwiches?”

“What kind have you got?” Came from somewhere between his mustache and his beard.

I ended up giving him two roast beef and one turkey sandwich. We spoke for a bit. I asked about his life; he asked about mine; normal conversation for two people who are getting acquainted. Before long he looked up from where he was sitting and asked if I was in a hurry and when I said no he asked if I could watch his few belongings while he took a trip to the bathroom.

I stood there alone looking at the spot where he had just been sitting. He had made himself a seat there, which consisted of a sleeping bag and a blanket, folded and placed inside of a black trash bag that rested on top of a backpack. This makeshift chair was located next to a bookstore and behind his sign which read “HOMELESS need help”.

I sat down in his chair deciding that I wanted to keep it warm for him. I realized I was going to get weird looks. Here’s a young guy wearing a nice leather coat with headphones around his neck … who’s homeless? No, that doesn’t quite add up.

I found myself amazed when no on took notice of me. You see, people almost turned their heads as they walked by. No one wants to make eye contact with the homeless. No one wants to stare deep into the darkness.

I looked up and saw him looking down at me, chuckling. I stood up, laughed at myself, and admitted, “I just wanted to keep your seat warm.” He thanked me and pointed out what it was comprised of before he sat back down, lowering his head.

He looked back up and asked me what my name was. I said it was Shane and extended my hand. Seeming quite surprised he looked up at me, gently clasped my hand with his and said his name was Allister.

During a conversation that started by Allister asking me where I am from, I said, “Luckily I have a roof over my head but I come from a very lower class family. My house is basically a bunch of wood that my grandfather and a group of his friends nailed together and put shingles on top.” Awkward chuckle…

“What do your parents do?”

“My mom actually makes less money than I do. She works in a factory.”

“Wow, working class huh? What does she do in the factory?”

“They label bottles, bottles of water, Windex, floor cleaners, stuff like that.”

“How about your dad”

“My parents are actually divorced, but he’s disabled because he has Hepatitis C.”

“Does he work?”

“No, he can’t, he’s too sick.”

“Does he get help from the state?”

“Yes, thankfully, though it’s not nearly enough. He’s behind on all his bills; he doesn’t even have heat in his house; he uses an electric space heater instead.”

“Wow. I am sorry to hear that about your dad. But you just have to keep looking up and hoping for the best, you know?” He sounded like me grandfather, Manny, to me.

I smiled and eased the conversation into its conclusion before heading deeper into Harvard Square. I got to “The Pit” and saw a man with a pointed beard leaning on a cane. When I asked him if he would like any sandwiches he said, “I don’t now, we might.” as he turned to the woman in the corner and said, “Hey Bee, do we need any sandwiches?” When she said yes I reached in my bag to give him a few and he said, “To the wife please” and smiled. I’ll never forget that.

The next man I found was someone I had seen before. He usually stands outside of the 24-hour CVS politely asking for change. He tried to turn me down but I walked away with three less sandwiches.

The last guy, who I decided would be the last because I was freezing (I know I shouldn’t complain), was also someone I had seen. He stands in front of a church and is so cordial that he almost bows as he asked every passerby the same thing:

“Do you have any change you could spare? Perhaps a –“

“No but I do have sandwiches. Would you like them?” Holding up the bag.

“Oh, certainly. That is a lot though isn’t it?”

“No, its fine, I already gave out a bunch of them.”

He thanked me before I smiled and walked away. We made eye contact when I looked back.

- Shane

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A New Perspective

Tonight on Lesley Delivers, some things just hit me and stirred this passion in me, which I could probably go on about forever.

All these thoughts came into my head as our group was conversing with Allister, who is usually found by the Harvard Book Store corner. I was sharing some of these thoughts with Natalie as we were walking back through the square, and I wanted to expand on them for the blog.

Tonight it just hit me how INCREDIBLY lucky I am to be at Lesley; at a place and in a community where I have these opportunities and experiences which so few other places have. After seeing how generous Allister was, and to hear how kind and sincere he is I just feel SO strongly that we are doing great things here at Lesley. And I also started to feel so upsets that really very few people get to have an experience like this, and get to be exposed and educated on the real needs of so many people in the world and in our own communities.

I was saying to Natalie how I wish I could just take everybody from my hometown, just everybody I know, and get them down here and put them into Lesley Delivers just for a night so that they would see firsthand a) the harsh realities of hunger and homelessness and b) that there are incredible opportunities to learn more and to help people who could use some human kindness. I just want to start a chain of positive actions in this community and in the rest of the state, and the country, and just anywhere that needs help. It makes me so frustrated and so grateful and so motivated all at once. I'm filled with all these emotions, they really bubble over and even sitting here writing this I'm red in the face and crying because I just wish that more people could receive help and care that they so greatly deserve, and that more people like students and those who do have more could be more generous and take the time and find opportunities to be exposed to the needs of others.

I'm not speaking very eloquently I realize, but basically I'm just rambling and have a lot of strong feelings about all this, and they are all kind of hitting me at once. I also really want to add, that I think Lesley is doing an amazing job of providing opportunities for students to grow and give back and just do great things for this world. I'm so unbelievably grateful for where this life has taken me and for the OCS and Lesley Delivers and Lesley University, for providing me with meaning and direction for my life. I'm becoming a better person thanks to all of these opportunities that have been provided here. I only wish that everyone I know could have a similar experience and recognize that we are capable of helping so many people and making a difference in this world, for people who have so much less and need so much more. I honestly think I am going to end up dragging everybody I know, down here to Lesley to see what they are missing.

I hope we all can recognize our potential to inspire others to provide more service and kindness in our communities.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

Lots of love,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Warmth and Hope and How They Aren't So Different

As the weather gets cooler, I get to thinking. I think about our homeless friends in Harvard Square. I think about how difficult the winter can be. And I think about the importance of doing little things on the way to reaching a greater good.

I love going out on Tuesdays and providing a meal for someone who may be hungry, but this week we had another event take place: Warm Blankets from Warm Hearts. Another aspect of Lesley Delivers, Warm Blankets from Warm Hearts is a blanket wrapping and card decorating event. In addition to passing out sandwiches on Tuesdays, we will start to hand out these wrapped and decorated blankets. Although this may seem like a small gesture, in reality it can mean so much more.

To me, warmth isn't just a physical reaction. It is something that can comfort your soul, make you feel secure, and put your mind at ease if only for a moment. In short, it can make you feel hopeful. I'd like to think that as winter slowly makes its way to New England and we begin to pass out these blankets (graciously donated to us) that we are doing something good. We are providing people with the opportunity to experience that soul-warming sensation. I hope that we give people hope; Hope for humanity, hope that things will be o.k., and hope that they can keep going. All it takes is a blanket and some love.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What can we do?

Rest easy, Colleen.

Homelessness is a struggle. When paired with addiction, it is even harder. Finding support around both of these issues is difficult. There are organizations available in the area, but these places are not always utilized.

Colleen was always out in the Square with her boyfriend. We saw her daily, brought her sandwiches every Tuesday, coffee & ice cream on other days out on our own time.
Last week, we saw what homelessness can do to people. We see this every day, but never to this extent. We have hope that building connections can change the way homelessness is seen, and erase the stigma from such a prominent issue.

Seeing so many new students come out to our weekly runs gives me the hope that we can do something really great here. Lesley Delivers strives to break down the barrier that homelessness creates. Homeless people are humans, just like you and me. Going out and having conversations is the first step. Sooner or later, you'll find yourself speaking to them on a day-to-day basis, giving these regular people who are ignored day in and day out the connection they long for. The next step is spreading this awareness, and talking about it. Say hello when you're walking by with a friend. When they ask why you did that, say why. Call people out for being rude and disrespectful. Be an advocate. Join an organization dedicated to issues around homelessness.

We can all make a difference. Breaking this barrier is the first step. The rest is up to you.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Extremes

Something very surprising happened on Tuesday's run. We asked a women we had seen before on our runs and at Harvard Square Meals, the soup kitchen in the area, if she would like a sandwich. She walked by us, staring straight ahead and said nothing. When she reached the end of the street, she turned around, so we asked her again, "Would you like a sandwich?" She asked us what authority we had to be handing out sandwiches, where we came from. "Lesley University," I answered cheerfully. She quickly walked towards us, focused in on one of our members. She came up inches away from her face and asked, "Who do you think you are giving out sandwiches in Harvard Square?" She yelled; she was furious and rude. She told us we should not make such broad generalizations, that she was working to get her PhD and was so insulted to have such an assumption made about her. She told us to go back to Lesley University where we belonged and to stop bothering innocent pedestrians in the square.

It goes without saying we were extremely upset and hurt. All we do is feed the hungry; our intentions are good. We were shocked at her extreme reaction. Typically, when people do not want sandwiches for whatever reason, they simple say, no, thank you. I have never experienced such a response. I was also baffled and confused as to why she would behave in such a way. We discussed ideas: maybe she was in denial or was too proud. But then why would she suddenly only stop accepting food now? Maybe she was on some sort of drug or was drunk, or maybe she has some sort of disorder. Perhaps she just did not appreciate being judged based on her looks, something that we are still learning to avoid as a club. Just because someone is carrying a suitcase or wearing old-looking cloths does not make them homeless. Even those in a suit could be homeless, vulnerably housed, or hungry, and so it is our job to ask if they would like something to eat. Our policy is that it is always better to offer a sandwich than not if we are not sure, because we pledge to feed anyone who is hungry, and this experience will not change our approach.

The polar opposite of that negative interaction were the two groups we came across. The space outside Bank of America was full of people huddled around, because those typically at the pit had to change locations due to the snow. They were extremely grateful and appreciative, just like the positive and happy individuals by the church next to Harvard Law. The man, who two weeks before had brightened our evening by making us laugh over the turkey sandwiches he imagined eating, made us feel cheery once again. He and his friends, the men who danced and sang Peanut Butter Jelly Time, made jokes, which made us smile. It is people like these that keep Lesley Delivers not only meaningful but also bright and wonderful. It does not matter if one person does not understand or appreciate what we are doing in Harvard Square so long as so many others have a good time, a friendly conversation, and a nice sandwich.

- Alex :)