Students Speak: Lifting Each Other Up

Jun 12, 2024

The van door closed behind me as my foot touched down onto a gravel road.

As our group moved packs of chips and energy drinks from the trunk to a couple of small, time-worn red wagons, I started to pay attention to the streets surrounding me. Newspapers and plastic wrappers settled in small puddles below boarded up windows and road signs. Though I could not see it yet, I knew what was hidden behind the rows of weathered buildings laid in front of me.

I was not nervous to go into Skid Row. I knew what to expect. Though in smaller ways, I had seen the tragedy of homelessness throughout my life. I had always pictured it as an unsolvable problem, or at least one that I could do nothing about. My dad and I had just flown into California for a short-term mission with the LA Dream Center to try to help however we could, but the hurt was powerful, and I felt powerless.

Making our way through the tent lined sidewalks of downtown Los Angeles with our group from the Dream Center, I could feel the desperate need for hope burning up every street edge and every little crack in the ground. The air smelled of misery and need. As we turned a corner and began to pass food out to different people and families, a woman in our group paused and pointed to the sidewalk. “This is where I used to live,” she said, halting us in our step.

Stunned, we fell silent and listened to her explain how for a long time, desperation consumed her life. She had struggled to the point that her only choice was living there. Disbelief shot through me as I stared at my surroundings. Fortresses of tarps and blankets crowded the pavement, sheltering chained up dogs that paced next to their sleeping owners. Just one year ago, this woman was living on the dirty, cracked sidewalk we stood on, yet here she was now, working to serve that very place.

It was people, she told us, that had transformed her life. They would come out every day, rolling carts of food, giving to whoever wanted. Hundreds of people’s lives are completely turned around every year by the love of God mediated by the volunteers that continue to go out every day. This was the love that reached this woman’s life.

She was taken out of the worst circumstance and was rescued by the hope offered to her. The transformation of this woman did not require winning the lottery; it was just about consistency. Sometimes all someone needs is people who will give their time to go out and talk, wanting only to share love and hope. Walking along those roads did not open my eyes to the tragedies of this world, but to the fact that we all have the capacity to ease the weight of them.

Written by Skye Fowler for the World Is A Classroom essay contest. Fowler attends Kaimuki Christian School in Honolulu as a junior. 

Headshot Photo Courtesy of Skye Fowler.