California homelessness surprises GHS journalism students

Rachel McDonald, Editor-in-Chief

“Will you look at that?” Hearing that question made me realize how much I take for granted. 

When we were in San Francisco for the National Journalism Convention, we often were given the opportunity to explore the surrounding city blocks. Throughout the week, I noticed there were more homeless people in San Francisco than we typically see in Downtown Indianapolis. It was eye-opening to see how high the homeless population was there. 

One morning, my friend Isaac (am I allowed to write his name?) and I decided to walk to a nearby coffee shop for breakfast. We both got up earlier that day; so we began our walk to breakfast while following directions from Google Maps. While Isaac and I were walking further away from the hotel, we noticed a huge gathering of homeless people on the sidewalk. As we kept walking, we realized they were all lining up for food. We walked for about two city blocks and the whole time we passed by homeless people all packed tightly together, waiting for food. 

When we arrived at the coffee shop, Isaac and I had a conversation about how fortunate we are to have money to buy this breakfast, while people just outside were desperate for a meal like that. Although I was disheartened at the sight of the homeless people, it did not really hit me until the next day when we went to the nearby mall.

For dinner on our last day in San Francisco, we went as a group to a food court in the mall. I ordered Japanese food that contained teriyaki chicken, white rice, vegetables, and gyoza. I ate all of the chicken and gyoza, but after eating both of those things I was not as hungry so I only ate a little bit of the rice and vegetables. When I was full, I had most of the rice and some of the vegetables remaining on my plate. Once everyone at our table was done eating, we all got up to throw our trash away and go to some of the stores in the mall. 

When we walked up to the trash cans, a homeless man pushed past Isaac and I to get in front of us. I checked my pockets to make sure nothing was stolen, because I knew often pick-pocketing happens when someone pushes past you like that. Luckily, I had my belongings. Little did I know, I would eventually feel awful for even considering the thought that this man was stealing from me. 

I took my plate of rice and vegetables and placed them inside the trash can. As I walked away, I heard from behind me, “Will you look at that?” I turned around to see the same homeless man pulling my plate out of the trash can. He hurried over to one of the tables and immediately started eating the same food I had been eating just moments ago. 

My heart sank. Suddenly, I felt awful. I realized how much I had taken that food for granted. Another one of our friends, Dom, noticed how my mood had changed and asked me what was wrong. I told him what had happened and he replied, “You can’t feel bad for having money and food, but it is still okay to feel bad.” I realized he was right, we cannot feel bad for having things that less fortunate people do not have. But at the same time, it is still human for us to feel bad in situations like that. 

Sometimes living in an area, like Greenwood, with a lower poverty level leads us to live somewhat naive lives. We do not always appreciate what we have. The food we have sitting in our pantries at home some people would give anything to have. I think it is important for all of us to take a step back and realize everything that we are blessed with. I know I will remember this moment for the rest of my life, as it taught me to be thankful for even the smallest things.