Recently, I walked down lively, vibrant streets on Capitol Hill, feeling the pulse of dance music spill out from open doors. Young people crowded in bars, clubs and restaurants basking in the excitement of Seattle’s nightlife.
Young people also gathered on sidewalks and street corners busking with their guitars and cardboard signs. I was one in a group of volunteers from Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission’s Search & Rescue program who let them know that we had a van with food, water and blankets.
Every night, Search & Rescue sends four vans stocked with essentials to people living in homelessness. Last night was my first time being in one of these vans. At first, I felt uneasy. Seattle is an unfamiliar city to a New York native like me, and being out after dark talking to strangers wasn’t a comforting thought.
The unease lessened after I met our driver, the stewards (who ensured our safety throughout the night) and Snickerdoodle (a volunteer nicknamed for her baking prowess, who offered us her delicious cookies). At each stop along the route, the unease faded more and more and was replaced with a sense of purpose.
I met people who not only welcomed us being in their space, but were very appreciative of what we gave them, even if it was just a bottle of water, a sandwich and a pair of socks. I witnessed brief connections begin with a “How are you doing?” and end with a “Thank you.”
Maybe they were grateful for the things they took back in plastic bags and Starbucks cups. Maybe they were just being polite. Maybe they truly valued the time and attention we gave them. Whatever their intention, I’m glad they said it, because sometimes a few simple words make all the difference.