Assumptions: Broke and Rebuilt

Qin  By Qin Xia

I just had the best Spring Break ever. It was not “fun,” but it was the best.

I joined the Alternative Spring Break, a week-long service opportunity offered by PSU. There were two optional trips: one in Sequoia National Park and the other in San Francisco. I chose the second one, which is the longest-running trip at PSU. We served at Glide Memorial Church and Lava Mae, while we stayed in the heart of San Francisco. I had the chance to think deeply on the “real life” I witnessed in San Francisco as we focused on the urban issues of houselessness and hunger.

During the trip, my biggest challenge was the breaking and rebuilding of my cultural assumptions. For example, before we left, during one of our group meetings, the leader told us that we are not there to “help.” In my culture, helping is the highest morality we value, and I thought it would be the best part of the trip. But they explained, “we are not from a higher level to help the lower level with mercy, that’s not right. We are here because we want to ‘serve’ the people.” They were saying it is a relationship between equals.

It reframed my thinking and offered a different angle of reflection. Sometimes we begin with a good heart, but we forget to check if it’s the right path towards our goal. Sometimes “help” makes people feel further away from each other.

What is the right way to work with the homeless or houseless community? I don’t know, and I am still learning. But I am sure nobody has the totally right answer. But that’s the best part of life: seeking the truth all the time.

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