Picture of students using computers in the library

Sand Shark Listening

November 23, 2013

USCB aired the documentary, “The Line” Tuesday night. This film chronicles the stories of those who have come face to face with poverty, who are in it, and whose life it is now a part of. In USCB’s week of Homelessness Awareness a door has been opened to the realities and possibilities of life, and now we have this critical moment of letting it be a week to be adopted into our past, or somehow finding a way to make it an active awareness into our future.

There is no abundance of words, I believe, to really be declared when you peer into a world different from your own; especially a world that is loss to and fighting for some of the fortunes of your own. Rather I think it is easy to find one’s self baffled in what to think. To find one’s self in a mound of emotions- who’s each (each emotion’s) point of presence remains unable to be pinned down.

I think many of us have heard the mass of stigmas burned into the impoverished: laziness, self-inflicted, or even chosen, yet one thing is made clear: poverty comes with more than a loss of utilities, food, and work but with a loss of hope, dreams, faith, and freedom.

“Poverty is struggling to make things work” James in The Line

—to hear poverty defined this way, immediately cues me into the notion something is not right. Why is "struggling to make things work" the equivalent to “not having enough money for the basic things that people need to live properly”? The man who spoke this definition of poverty was not by any means incompetent, he was not driven to show humility, nor pride, nor courage, or pain; but what I saw in him was joy. He was joyful for what he had and the progress he made in battling poverty, and in living life. Yet so many people do not seem to find what James has in this moment, and if they do, it remains a struggle to hold onto. He has joy. It calls forth an admiration, it is to be admired; he and his story are infinitely admirable.

USCB continuing its week of Homelessness Awareness also did an event called “One Night Without a Home” in which students were given a cardboard box and lived outside from 7pm to 7am. There were no electronics, no food or money (unless you found a person to beg some off from), the SC Department of Public Safety made visits to the grounds and kicked students off the porches of the buildings, and students trudged all through the night in search of a comfortable, safe, and allowed location to get some shut eye. I spoke with two freshmen students who participated in this, Paige Frankovich and Kira Hendricks, they described it as frustrating, insanity driving, and eye opening. They reminisced on “The Line” and how their imaginings of the horrors and struggles in such a life were expanded a bit closer to the realities that many people face. Furthermore Paige and Kira remained so inspired they chose to fight through their exhaustion of the sleepless night to attend the soup kitchen at St. Andrew by the Sea the following morning with 5 other girls: Jessica Bailey, Clementine Folan, Sequoya Poteat, Paige Castle, and myself.

At the soup kitchen a gentlemen assisting in running the operation peered at us with bliss, and after discussing with us more factual information about the kitchen he enthusiastically encouraged us to mingle. I think all of our hearts stopped: How do we mingle? No matter how many times we coach ourselves to dive into any situation with calm and courage, sometimes it inevitably remains a frightening idea to go into the unknown. Student Life Volunteer Coordinator of AmeriCorps VISTA, Paige Castle’s voice spoke with a needed calming vitality, “do you remember 'The Line', do you remember the stories they shared? -- well now we listen again”-- and so we dispersed, holding onto Paige's encouragement and we each sat and listened and talked.

I felt as though I was embraced more than I knew how to embrace. The girls later shared with me all the stories they heard at their table: a man homeless for twelve years, a woman injured at work and unable to get another job, a student fighting to finish school and find a better life, a former injured marine and her son. I sat with two women who shared smiles with me and mothering kindnesses. And a gentleman who was as curious about my studies as I was his life. I learned he "sort of" had a place to stay- but nowhere definitively and sometimes he could find some work but nothing definitively. He told me more about the soup kitchen and how he has been coming to the kitchen for about a year and a half now. It sort of immobilizes me to hear, I am overcome with a feeling of being unsure in what to do, yet I took comfort in being able to sit with another person and be present if nothing else, and this man I could tell was making the effort to show my being there was okay.

We wrapped up our afternoon by cleaning the tables and breaking down the set-up we walked into. As I pulled out of the parking lot I watched the gentleman I talked to pull out on his bike, he wore a book bag which I thought must carry maybe all of what he owns. I remember I said something to the effect of how I experienced some hardships but could never completely fathom being without shelter, and he said to me “a girl should not have to be.” I wish no one had to be and that no one was.

The girls on the way home could not stop talking about how kind the people were, how loving and open, and inspirational. I think Sand Sharks had a week of opportunity that everyone in “our world” should have. A time to listen to another world, and a time to somehow make a difference if even just by being present. It may not be much, but then again it may be everything. I love my school because it is always giving away these inspirations for free and these experiences carry the root of an education constantly being reawakened and it makes life all the more sweeter.

"Sweeter" by Joy Ike, played in "The Line"

 Yours Truly: Sand Shark Listening,

                                                Erin Dailey