When I first signed up to participate in the STM trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was excited to go because I was interested in going on an STM, but I was also a bit apprehensive because I had never been to the Tenderloin before and wasn’t sure quite how dangerous it would be. I anticipated handing out food or sorting City Impact donations, and I wasn’t sure if I would interact with people.
However, I really was able to step out of my comfort zone during the STM trip. It didn’t completely go how I had predicted. Although I was assigned to serve food for most of the week, I was also asked to talk to the people who came in. I was able to hold conversations with many different people of the Tenderloin. Through these conversations, I learned to see these people as humans with complex life stories. They had so much to say.
The people in the Tenderloin that I met were broken people. I met them when they came to the cafe we ran, where we handed out free pastries and warm drinks such as coffee or tea. Some people I talked to suffered from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Some were on drugs. One man that came to the food table was on crack and rocked back and forth frantically, mumbling answers to our questions that made absolutely no sense. It was heartbreaking to see a person who couldn’t coherently hold a conversation nor control his body movements, addicted to a substance that kept him in this helpless state.
One man told me he had Grammys from England and China, despite the fact that England and China do not give out Grammys, and he also told me he had 2 to 3 million children. Another man insisted to me that San Francisco was in the Bible, and that the end of the world would be in San Francisco. He eventually confessed to me that he had drug addiction problems.
I was also able to speak to some sober people during street ministry, in which we walked the streets of the TL handing out chips and attempted to start conversations with the homeless. It was initially scary. However, it was actually one of the most encouraging activities of the ministry trip. It demonstrated to me the need to build relationships to reach out to people.
During one particular street ministry, my brother and I were able to talk to two guys, James and Bernard. My brother started talking to James about the Warriors, and I ended up talking to Bernard by myself. To him, I was a nice person who actually cared for him and didn’t look down on him, because I held a conversation with him. I was able to tell Bernard about the social services that City Impact provided, and he told me about his prior bad experiences with social service workers and said because I had been so kind to him, he’d go to City Impact for help. City Impact emphasizes the importance of treating the homeless people on the street as humans, and this incident really illustrated that to me. Bernard also seemed excited that we were Christians, and actually asked us to pray for his cousin who had a stroke, so we prayed together.
These are just a few of the interactions I had with the people of the Tenderloin. I could go on and on about what these people told me and what I did during the STM trip. However, I truly learned the importance of treating others with dignity and respect. People were so open to talking to me and exchanging ideas, and I plan to apply that openness of spirit into my life.