“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story within yourself”
- Maya Angelou
Every person who lives on the streets has a story to tell, and in order for pain to cease, we must be the ones who are willing to hear them.
Milad Sadegi, a fellow OutsideIn team member and gifted photographer, is a testimony to this. In his own back garden, Milad captured the stories of the most vulnerable members of society. Alongside good friend Adrian Mayogra, a local Barbour, they offered haircuts to the homeless in their city.
It all started one afternoon in downtown San Diego.
Milad tells us his story:
“I was making a commute out towards the downtown San Diego area to catch a Padre’s baseball game. As I was making my way through the city, I began to notice whole entire blocks covered in human beings sitting and laying around - as if they were just waiting to die. There was literally not a single ounce of emotion on any of their faces. None of them. You couldn’t even tell who was of what sex because of how worn down and exhausted they looked. I called Adrian before the next light, and explained to him what I had just seen, and what I felt we needed to do”
Milad and Adrian decided to take on the daunting task of welcoming strangers into their lives in determination to offer help, hope, and restore dignity to those who rarely experience kindness.
What they received in return was a revelation of how sincere and genuine these humans really are.
These men, from La Posada Men's Shelter in California, completely turned Milad and Adrian's expectations upside down.
“The first time we set out to cut the hairs of those on the streets, I remember being scared for my life. We were surrounded by people who we, for the most part, only knew due to stereotypes and public opinion. But as soon as we began to set up little stations for haircuts, a couple of individuals on the block walked up and asked who we were and if we needed any help.
Did you get that? They asked us, if we needed help. These two guys went and told the others what we were doing, gathered up others, and helped us with all the cleaning and pickup of hairs after.”
We are all guilty of it.
The words “drug addict” “alcoholic” “dangerous” “dirty” can so easily cross our minds as our feet cross to the other side of the street.
Why do we so easily allow society’s generalizations to mask our perceptions of people we don’t know at all?
We let our eyes judge what our ears have not heard.
The result is tragic. Not only do we miss out on the chance to see hope unfold for these irreplaceable members of society, but we also miss out on some of the most incredible stories.
Don was one of the many individuals who Adrian and Milad came across whilst offering haircuts.
When asked how long he had been living on the streets, he answered:“March will be 12… Wait... Yeah, 12 years. March man. They talk about March madness? Try realizing it marks another year living on a sidewalk. And everyone thinks you want to be there. For 12 years, not one person has offered to hear what I can do, who I once was, or who I want to be.12 years. No one.Maybe this haircut will be a step in the right direction. Maybe, maybe this will give me some of my dignity back. Make people see me, and ask why someone with a clean cut is sleeping on a sidewalk?"
Josh isn’t a drug addict or a money grabber, he’s a family man, and desperate to be reunited to the ones he misses and loves.“I was on Market St. right off Paradise... I was only out there for a week, but a week was enough to scare the light out of you. You don't know if you’re going to wake up the next day. It’s like one of the cartoon scenes where you're in the jungle and all the eyes start popping up in the dark around you... Because you don't think that your family is sneaking money from under you, while your paralyzed in a hospital incoherent on painkillers from a car accident that put you there. You don't think that you’d ever be abandoned by them. And one day, you wake up on Market Street - and you don't even know how you got there. I don't want money, I don't want drugs. I don't even want to share a beer with you. I just want answers. I just want my family back. I’ll even forgive them, because nothing is worth losing over money. I just want my family.”
“I’m just in another house. Not an apartment. Not in the company of loved ones. It’s just me. I’ve gotten myself here because no one else will help me. I’m not bragging, I'm just spitting facts. God uses us in different ways. But I don’t get upset - because maybe, maybe he's using me to bless you".
Every person who came to get his or her haircut had a remarkable story to tell.
They all carried hopes, dreams, ambitions that they still long to fulfil. They all endured hardship, experienced hurt, tasted rejection, and yet were still brave enough to share their lives and stories with people they had just met, longing for human connection and understanding.
They're not any less deserving of the endless amounts of opportunities and privileges you and I get to partake in everyday.
For both Adrian and Milad, these stories transformed how they saw the strangers they pass on the street for good.
And they long for the same transformation to happen for you:
“They're human beings. They're not invisible. They're not dirty. Just speak to them. Let them know you see them. Let them know that at least someone in this world is thinking about them. Just let them know there is hope.
Imagine how much more can be done at a more rapid rate, if these stories got out there and broke the views and ideas we all have because of what we’ve been told by the society around us.”
Tomorrow, don’t just walk past.
Take the time to stop and listen.
Don’t miss a story.
Don’t miss a life.
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