In my second semester at UC Berkeley, I challenged myself to getting my first internship related to my major. I was offered an interview at a homeless organization in the heart of the Tenderloin. Before that day, I visited the area and was immediately put off. People were sleeping on the streets, some parts smelled of urine and drug dealing frequently occurred openly. I researched the area online and found articles that reinforced these negative images.
Nonetheless, I obviously ended up interning in the Tenderloin. Those few months gave me skills and courage I don’t think I would have gained elsewhere. But more so, I learned that in the end, I was part of the problem. I believed the negative stereotypes.
On my last day, I spoke to a homeless man in front of the office. I commented on the beautiful flowers he had- to which he told me thank you and that it was his birthday. His 51st birthday. He turned back and kept busy sweeping his part of the sidewalk, even washing it with water and soap. To me this represents that the Tenderloin is not a den of lost people on the streets, but it is home to the very persons in it- just the way my home is for me. Unwashed, battered, broken, but not defeated- the homeless that ended up in the Tenderloin are not a dangerous kind, but possess the most beautiful and amiable souls.
Perhaps it is a shows how ignorant we have been; they show how badly we can batter and destroy someone’s soul. We, the privileged are the dangerous ones. Remember the power you have in your hands. What will you do with your privilege? What will you let it do to others?