Selfless service is something that has always been a goal of mine. Yesterday was the first day that I drove into the parking lot of the Salvation Army to distribute clothes, food, and toiletries to the homeless community that camps out under the bridge.
Anyone who has been to downtown Knoxville knows the bridge that I am talking about. This area of Knoxville has been under a lot of criticism for being a sanctuary for homeless people. The area has been called tent city since dozens of tents have been set up there as shelter. The community has mixed reactions to tent city. Some folks see these people are human beings who have needs that aren’t being met. While others would rather see the homeless community either seek shelter at KARM, Salvation Army or other shelters or just move along.
The truth is the homeless epidemic is a complicated issue. There are many reasons why people are homeless and the fact is there just aren’t enough resources out there to feed, house and give these people a hand up.
This is where small organizations like TN Holistic comes in to help. TN Holistic takes donations year round to hold monthly distribution days. We give out clothes, toiletries, and food to the homeless community one day a month.
I volunteered at distribution day for the first time in April. I have to admit I was a little nervous. I am that petite suburban white girl that drives through that area to get to downtown with my windows up and my doors locked. The thought of parking my car and walking into that area worried me.
As we pulled into the parking lot, people were curious. Who are these people getting out of their cars and setting up tables? The crowd started to gather in curiosity. Our friend kindly asked them to form a line and that this would be a first come, first serve deal. We had 50 sandwiches, snack bags, and 72 water bottles to give out. Along with 50 toiletry bags and a wide range of clothes.
It only took us 15 minutes to set up hand everything out and pack up and leave. The line went fast and we were out of supplies in no time. I left feeling sad knowing that we had to leave hundreds of people out there without anything. These people literally came up to us with only the clothes on their back. Clothes that they probably hadn’t changed in weeks or even months.
I greeted every person with a warm smile and each person genuinely thanked us for taking the time to come and care for them. It’s so easy to drive by and not look these people in the eyes and not think of them as human. At the end of the day, each person is human with a unique story. Everyone has a heart and love in their hearts. Sometimes you just have to take the time out of your busy life for a little selfless service. We might not be able to save the world and stop homelessness in one day. But we have to start somewhere.