“The dimes always add up fast.”
Bill uttered these words to me Wednesday night as he sat on the side of a highway overlooking the Oklahoma City skyline. Looking down at the littered concrete, he picked up a rock and quickly threw it back on the ground. He thought it was a dime.
“The dimes always add up fast,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a dollar bill.”
Other than the two bike accidents he almost had that day, he said he felt fine for the moment. As he ate spaghetti, sprinkled with the seasoned salt he carries in his backpack, Bill began to talk to me and Oklahoma Christian University student Sam Day about his life.
He grew up on the East Coast and hitchhiked in West Virginia, the most beautiful state in his opinion, for about 10 years. Upon realizing our age, he reminisced about his days in college and how fast time passes by.
While he poured hand sanitizer on his wounds acquired from living outside, I asked Bill how he ended up in Oklahoma. He didn’t want to talk about it. He called his story “long and sad,” and suddenly I was at a loss for words. Recognizing my impending awkwardness, he began to ask about my major and what I hoped to do with the rest of my life. He asked us why we were there: “school, God, yourself?” He gave me advice, and I listened.
Talking about subjects like homelessness and poverty is relatively easy. Honestly, giving someone money on the side of the road is not too difficult either. Confronting the issue of homelessness in our city by engaging in conversation with those affected and facing the reality of these problems is where we fall short.
Bill is not a statistic. He is Bill. A human being with a name and thoughts and emotions. Bill talked extensively about God and how he felt God’s presence in the mountains or whenever he was outside. I learned from Bill, more than I ever expected to.
Oftentimes, when we as a society look at people who are homeless, we strip them of their humanity. We assume they are lazy drug addicts, who may one day use our “handouts” for something which we would not approve of.
But talking to Bill for 15 minutes, I realized this perspective could not be further from the truth. He seemed far more concerned with avoiding bike accidents and remembering where the three best places in the city to get free water were located than anything else.
According to The Oklahoman, the homeless population in Oklahoma City has recently increased by 8%. We live only 15 minutes away from Oklahoma City, and students at Oklahoma Christian have the power and the resources to make an impact.
Until locals begin to advocate for change or actively help to change the current situation, this percentage will likely continue to rise.
Nearly every Wednesday night, Oklahoma Christian students volunteer at the Boulevard Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. I’m grateful students like Sam Day and Corbin Shaw take time out of their schedules to commit themselves to a ministry such as this one. We can all take a lesson from their love. Through either feeding a meal to those without a home or tutoring kids in the Oklahoma City community, relationships made at Boulevard are authentic and real.
In only five minutes of sitting by the highway with a pan of spaghetti, water bottles and a jug of lemonade, multiple people showed up to the back of our truck bed, ready to eat their dinner. It may be overly optimistic, but I believe If more of us would volunteer our time in these ways, more people on the streets would feel loved, even for a moment.