[I] am proud to introduce you all to Brian Hamlett.  Brian attends Azusa Pacific University.  Brian met my daughter Maggie while both were studying abroad in South Africa this last semester.  In conversation, Brian discussed his plans to use his summer vacation travelling to various cities, participating in and understanding the fine art of being of service.   Brian was looking for a non-profit to hook his wagon to, some organization, which would assimilate him into their group and which he could represent.  Maggie kindly directed Brian towards me and I was blessed to sit with him and hear of his plans.  We at Joy Squared pitched in financially a bit, joining others who came alongside Brian, allowing this summer of selflessness.

As I read his words, it makes me think to a time I was Brian’s age, an age where I would rarely consider a thought, which did not serve my own best interest.  So once again we are to understand that it is going to be ok.  If the generation following us can think and act and love like Brian, yes, we are going to be just fine.

-scott

San Francisco

I am aware that I am a very blessed person. I go to a very good school, have a very good family, and overall live a very good life. I have come to the realization in my own life that in my state of being so blessed, I have the opportunity to take full advantage of my blessings and not lazily enjoy what has been given to me. This past semester in school I was blessed to have the opportunity to go on a study abroad semester in South Africa. During this amazing experience I saw an extreme amount of suffering and hopelessness. It broke my heart knowing that I don’t deserve to be more blessed than them. It was an experience that made me want to see all sides of life from deep suffering to pure joy, to understand the true difference between the two and how one can possibly go from the deepest of sufferings to the highest of joys. This summer I decided to just go and try. To go with an open heart and see what God would do if I were open to his direction. The plan became to drive across North America and spend time in major cities volunteering were I could with different organizations that are helping the people in their community.

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The first destination was San Francisco. It was an incredible experience. I did some volunteer work and then went out and talked to people on the street. Both were learning experiences in different ways. The volunteer work allowed me to see how the needs of people were being met on a large scale. My personal wandering and conversing allowed me to understand on a more personal level the daily struggles that these people go through.

The place I volunteered at was Glide Church. It is one of the main soup kitchens in Tenderloin. I worked on the floor, bussing tables and refilling the water. Hundreds of people get fed each meal and often is the only meal they get to eat each day. I stayed after all the work was done one day to learn more about their work. I learned that besides being a soup kitchen they are also one of the main hubs for homeless shelters. They give out information on facilities for homeless and it is a place where you can go to register and get a number for the shelters. At four thirty you go wait in line in front of the church for your number to be called. Often men are outside till the late hours of the night sitting, waiting and hoping in the cold for a bed.

I sat in line and talked with a few of the men. One man’s story in particular really impacted me. He was thirty-three and his name was Steve. He was an army veteran who served multiple terms in Afghanistan. When I met him he was sitting on his camouflage army bag with his head in between his legs with his hands covering his neck doing all he could to block the wind and attempt to sleep in the line. We spoke for about an hour. He told me a few horror stories of war and how he is trying to get his life together back here in the states. Apparently the money that the government owed him for his service was delayed or put on hold. He had no family and has had no luck getting a job. He explained that he has had to miss a few job interviews to get in line for the shelter, because other wise he would have to sleep on the streets that night. Throughout the conversation I could just feel that this man felt anger towards his situation. He had done nothing wrong and there was nothing wrong with him. He was just a victim to his own circumstances. He did explain that he had hope; he explained that once his checks from the army come in he will be back on his feet and it will be easier to find a job. It was interesting to hear his story because it broke down the wall in my own mind of what it means to be homeless. Most people have this view that all homeless people are either drug addicts or crazy. This I soon found to not be the case. Many people are in similar situations like him. Most of the people I talked to either were doing their best to make a better life for themselves or where completely content being homeless.

I met these two girls on the street who where selling pot. I asked them about their situation and why they too were on the streets. They both come from different cities in the states and met one another following a band around the country. They left home when they were fifteen and never looked back. Upon coming to San Francisco they fell in love with it. With almost nothing, they sleep in Golden Gate Park where hundreds of homeless youth have made the park their home. The community is very unique. Most of them look out for one another and find ways to make money to survive. One of the girls told me, jokingly, she was sad that she came to San Francisco so early in life because she always wanted to travel more but got stuck here. Not stuck in a bad way, but stuck in the sense that she never wants to leave. She loves her life and the fact that she has found happiness with near to nothing. They explained that though the life they lived is viewed as a bad situation and may not be the healthiest of lives, they have never been happier. This threw me off a lot. It was hard to imagine how you can happily live life with nothing on the streets. The more time I spent with people like them, the more I could imagine it and the more I understood it.

My time in San Francisco brought up a lot of questions in my own life that I may never find the answer to. The biggest one is simply about what makes for a happy life. People living in the same situation in the city have a variety of ways of viewing life. Two people may have the same things and live in the same park, but some are extremely happy and others are deeply depressed and full of suffering. If we want to live a happy life does it mean we need a good job, nice house, and things that keep us entertained; or do we just need the right mindset? Everyone is looking for happiness, could it be as simple as changing your mindset? Overall, San Francisco taught me a lot about people and myself, looking forward to what else will be.