This is My Change – Hannah

It seems like just yesterday I was packing up my things and heading off to Washington D.C., but now it is Friday, March 4th and 4:42 pm and I’m sitting at my regular spot at the kitchen counter, typing up one of the final few posts recapping the trip.

Firstly, let me say that not only was the Washington D.C. trip incredibly fun and new and exciting, but it was also humbling and shocking (and in some ways depressing).

Let me recap yesterday.

Jeff had straight A’s in high school, has a college education, speaks eloquently, has a kind soul and a happy heart, and wants nothing more than to bring a smile to your face. Jeff has bipolar disorder. Jeff is formerly homeless.

Jeff sells papers for Street Sense, an organization that helps the homeless get back on their feet by providing them with a meager source of income. Street Sense is a paper written mostly by the homeless, focusing on homelessness issues in Washington D.C. and the world. Homeless individuals can buy a paper from the organization for 35 cents a pop, and then sell them on appointed D.C. street corners for 65 cents profit.

Yesterday our group donned the bright yellow uniform that designates a Street Sense vendor and walked past the White House, past several eateries, to K Street, a street infamous for lobbyists and nightclubs. For two and a half hours, from 10 am until 12 30 pm, our group scattered over a five-block radius and sold papers for the benefit of Jeff.

It’s unbelievable how cold some people can be. I found that many people walked faster when they noticed my luminescent yellow vest, and the great majority of people refused to make eye contact with me.

I would say, “Good morning sir/ma’am! Support the city’s homeless for a dollar?”

And you know how people answered 9 times out of 10? They said, “No, thanks.”

I remembered that Jeff said not to be offended, just smile and say “God bless,” or “Have a beautiful day,” but I just couldn’t understand. Nothing I said constituted a “No, thanks.”

You say no, thanks, when something is offered to you. You say no, thanks, when the flight attendant asks you if you want a drink. You say no, thanks, when you’re asked if you want all your hair chopped off.

You do not say no, thanks, when someone asks you to look into your heart to donate 1 dollar, just one dollar, to maybe better the life of someone else.

I did listen to Jeff and pretend it didn’t bother me that at least two hundred people passed me on that absolutely frigid morning and only around 12 of them bothered to pull a dollar out of their pocket.

There was one particular man who I remember. He had on a green tie, a pale blue shirt, and a black, very business-y looking jacket (he had pants on too). He crossed the block at least three times, and every time I asked him again if he would be willing to donate a dollar to support Jeff. Around 11 45, when I could hardly move my fingers any more and my toes were so cold they were starting to feel warm again, I saw him cross the street and walk purposefully towards me.

“I went to lunch,” he said and smiled, handing me a dollar, “This is my change.”

A lot of other stuff happened, and I’ll post about it later, but for now I’m just going to post a few more pictures!
Hope everyone is having a great break/ beginning of March!!

DAY 7 RECAP!

HEYO! It’s been a few days since I last updated you on the Washington D.C. trip. Here’s a brief overview of our last three days:

Friday–

We headed over to Food and Friends bright and early to help package groceries and meals for families of people with HIV/AIDS. The best part? The people and the snacks they offered us. Our group also makes a mean (meaning awesome) assembly line. Friday night we stayed in and ordered pizza for our last night of the week in the William Penn House before heading off  to the Holiday Inn in the southwest sector of D.C.

Saturday–

We didn’t do any service, but we did have a lovely day of reorienting ourselves with the city. Half of us decided to go to the Temple/GW basketball game at the Smith Center on GW’s campus, and later the boys went out to dinner at Nando’s Peri Peri (best chicken ever ever ever) with T. Whitney and I met up with the girls in Georgetown for cupcakes (Georgetown Cupcakes is the main hub for the TLC show DC Cupcakes, and for good reason) and shopping. We all got back to the hotel and passed out from exhaustion. The fatigue involved with walking all the time is unbelievable, but all of us are really happy about how easy it is to fall asleep at night.

Sunday–

Today we went to a United Methodist Church to prepare, set, serve, clear, and wash up after a meal for the homeless. All of us had major deja vu (shout out to Work Program oh ,) because the washing machine for the dishes was a Hobart, and all the jobs we had to do were exactly the same as those we do in Work Program every day back at school.

The weird part about today, then, was not about what we did for service, but rather what we did before service (at least for me). Call me a bad Christian, but I haven’t been to church for a very long time (if you don’t count Meeting every Thursday at school). Today we went to a Methodist ceremony, and I was having flashbacks to my childhood, when my parents made me go to church every single Sunday. It was weird, but interesting definitely.

This afternoon we did what teenagers do best– cause a ruckus in a hotel. The ten of us collectively have three rooms, and already they pretty much resemble Kansas post-twister. The boys went out for a boys dinner and the girls went out for crepes at Crepes on the Walk in Chinatown.

HOPE EVERYTHING IS GREAT IN WEST CHESTER! T. LIBBY SHOULD BE GETTING EXCITED FOR ALL THE POSTCARDS SHE’LL BE GETTING.

LOVE TIMES FIVE!
HANNAH

P.S. If you’re ever in D.C. go to the Arlington Cemetery. It’s only a 20 minute ride out of D.C. on the blue line and it’s incredibly moving. The changing of the guard is heart stopping (just make sure you don’t accidentally drop your camera over the guard rail– that guard takes no prisoners).

P.P.S. Washington D.C. is amazing.

Prelude to the World Traveler

I know I posted yesterday, but I feel like what I posted was much more oriented towards what we were doing as opposed to how we were (and have been) doing.

This morning at breakfast a few of us started talking over toast and raisin bran about what really makes a trip great. We kept lobbing ideas off each other, ‘why is this trip turning out to be such a positive experience?’ It wasn’t an incredibly deep conversation (it had that I-just-woke-up-and-didn’t-get-enough-sleep-but-I-feel-like-having-a-conversation-anyway vibe) it was just something at least the three of us had been pondering over the past few days.

Then someone said it. “I feel like a trip goes like this: first it’s who you’re with, next it’s what you do, and finally it’s where you are.”

Suddenly it made sense. It doesn’t matter that I’m not in Spain or Ghana or Thailand (although that’s still freaking awesome) it matters that I’m with a group of folks that meshes and collaborates fabulously.

I had my reservations about staying in the States. Before I left for Senior Projects all I could really think about was how stupid I was for not signing up for the trip to go to Spain (flamenco dancing is so cool– and so is Spanish food) and how dumb I was for passing up the chance to go to Ghana (both to be someplace warm and to have the experience of a lifetime).

But I’ve never been good at travelling. I freak myself out at the last minute, I come home early, I get homesick, and I don’t pause to really experience what’s around me. I get in this horrible negative mood, I’m antisocial. Anyone back at Westtown would probably jump back in shock at that (I’m not generally known as a quiet and negative person… I hope) but it’s the truth (seriously, ask my parents).

And here, I’ve done exactly the opposite of what I usually do. So far I have yet to experience that weird pit in my chest that suggests homesickness, and I most certainly have not been sitting around all day, just waiting for the trip to end (like I usually do).

I know it’s only been four days, and that’s kind of a pathetic amount of time to be saying this, but I think I’ve changed. I feel like all the times I’ve travelled before (with a few exceptions, of course) have been preludes to this particular trip.

I just needed practice. Now I feel like I can go places and really experience them–I mean really be there– in a way I never have before.

But maybe it’s too soon to tell.

Lots now, more later

We’ve barely been here for three days and it feels as though we’ve been here forever. So far we’ve managed to master (sort of) the subway system, walk a ton, do service in a church and at DC Central Kitchen, and eat some of the best meals ON THE PLANET (Merzi in the Penn Quarter has the best chicken I’ve ever tasted).

Another unexpected twist, for me at least, was seeing just how well our group has meshed together. We’re an incredibly diverse group– both ethnically and in other ways. I’m not going to lie, when I first found out who was also going on the DC trip I was a little bit skeptical about us all getting along, but it was like we got on the Megabus and we were family.

Back to day one!

We got on the Megabus, which promptly broke down (turns out the Megabus was a mega-bust). We loaded onto another bus after an hour of sitting on the side of the freeway and made it all the way to DC without a hitch. We hiked for 20 minutes to the William Penn House, were welcomed with a group meeting, and then went out to an early dinner.

Then it was day two!

We woke up, had breakfast, and went out to a church in a more business-y district of the city. We prepared simple meals, sandwiches and packaged goods mostly, loaded up three shopping carts with the help of William, a well-meaning and previously homeless schizophrenic man, and walked three blocks to the park.

In the park we had a church ceremony for the local homeless. It was freezing, and I was struck by all the people who showed up. Not only homeless were at the brief ceremony, but so were men dressed in their business attire. One woman I saw was wearing a flamboyant fur coat.

I knew, as I stood shaking in the icy breeze, that I was going to be inside a warm building very soon. But I also knew, as I stood shaking in the icy breeze, that most of the people reciting the 23rd Psalm with me would not. They would stay outside and enjoy their meager meal of PB&J and applesauce, and then they would stay outside when it got cold too, at night.

My semi-failure

I’ve never really considered myself a last minute kind of person, but as far as Senior Projects go I think I may need to reevaluate that particular self image I’ve always supposedly adhered to. Up until a few days ago the plan was for me to organize and implement a 5k Run’Walk for charity. To my disappointment, I found that I was much less involved than I had originally intended. For as long as I could I stubbornly argued that I would be busy, definitely, for the 5 weeks total the seniors have off to go have an amazing life experience. But I knew, deep down (or maybe not so deep down at all) that this project was not turning out as I had originally planned.

My fix? Grow up, accept my semi-failure, and find another project.

Now I’m off to Washington, D.C. in just a few weeks. I supppose the blog name hannahrunning has become moot point, but honestly I’m excited to get out of West Chester for a couple of weeks. To be entirely honest I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing in D.C., but I know there is service involved, and a trip to the White House which I unfortunately will have to miss because of how late I signed up for the trip (I have yet to write a check or even tell T. Cindy where I’m going to be for the records).

All the same, I’m excited– it’s not every day when I get to visit the heart of America (or even leave West Chester for that matter).

It’s my hope that Washington D.C. will not only be the project that saves me from my previous project, but the real, substantial, exciting (and hopefully fun) Senior Project that I always wanted to have. I’m a clean slate. I’m a blank page. I’m all those lovely corny sayings people love to say when they’re about to start a new chapter.

Also, since I forgot to say earlier, my name is Hannah Trask.