"Would you like to make a sandwich for the homeless?" I turned around and there they were Ÿ a group of girls surrounding a table with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They were encouraging students to come make meals for the homeless. Unfortunately, I was on my way to an appointment and was unable to participate in the service that the women of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority were hosting in front of their house.
On my way to my engagement, I promised myself that I would return to the house as soon as I could. This was an opportunity for me to take time out of my schedule and do something for the homeless. Even though it was minimal, I was at least making an effort in helping out a cause that is often ignored.
I returned to the house to make my sandwich and was told that they had already finished. Rather than leaving, I stayed for a few minutes and talked with some of the members of the sorority. They explained that the service was a combined effort with the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity as well as a group from the Hillel Foundation on campus. The sandwiches that were prepared were going to Casa Maria, one of two soup kitchens in the Tucson area which offer free meals to the homeless 365 days a year. After leaving the philanthropy site, I could not help but think of what a great service these groups were doing and commend them for their efforts.
This experience brought to my attention the many stereotypes that are associated with both the Greek system and the homeless. In all groups, there is good, bad, truth, and fallacy. For example, Panhellenic (the sorority system) is a group on campus that could easily be negatively stereotyped. They could be seen as a group of rich snobs that are only concerned about their new BMW, losing weight through bulimia, their upcoming date-dash, or if Jake and Joe (Melrose Place characters) are getting back together (he's slime Ÿ lose him).
But there is also the flip-side to this stereotype. Kappa Kappa Gamma is in Panhellenic and was spending their time today making sandwiches for the homeless. Panhellenic is also a part of the Greek system, which provides more community service than any other group on campus.
The homeless are another group in our society which have stereotypes of their own. A negative view on the homeless might occur when someone does not question what they see in front of them. For instance, some may feel that homeless people are individuals who are unmotivated drunks who are rude, dirty, and are always asking for money Ÿ but once again, there is a flip-side to the negative stereotype. Homelessness does not discriminate. There is no age, sex, race, or class status that you have to be to become one. Many homeless people have graduated from high school or have degrees in college or may even have been very wealthy at one time. Some accept homelessness as a lifestyle and are content with the way they live. Others work through programs designed for the homeless and have particular jobs given to them to boost them back into the working world as well as there self-esteem. For instance, there is a group of homeless people that are employed to wash graffiti off walls in public areas. Some choose to sell newspapers on streets. These individuals are working hard and deserve credit for their motivation towards better lives.
Homelessness is something that can be easily overlooked or ignored if we are not homeless ourselves or know someone who is. There are many ways we can help them and the community as a whole. Educating ourselves on the stereotypes and the facts of homelessness is a start. La Primavera is a support group for the homeless that can always use volunteers from the community. They also have speakers that talk to groups about homelessness and what the public can do to help. Primavera also provides necessities for the homeless and can always use toiletries, clothing, food, and blankets. This could be you or your clubs next community service project.
Kappa Kappa Gamma got my attention today simply by asking me if I wanted to make a sandwich for the homeless. This column is my peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the day that I have made. So now I am asking if you want to make one too. If we all put a little time into this big cause, just think of the incredible meal we could create for the homeless and the smiles we could put on their faces. I'm sure you will feel gratified because smiles are priceless.
Jonathan Bierner is a psychology senior and chair of the Undergraduate Senate.
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