Seeing the Homeless

Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

The entire high school packed into the auditorium on a December morning for the weekly assembly. After a few student announcements, the chairman of the Community Service Board asked us to step up our contributions to the gift drive because we weren’t on pace to meet our goal of 2,011 gifts. Roderick Demmings, a senior, stood up and asked if he could say a few words. He walked up on stage, stared out at all of us, and took a deep breath. He reminded us how he played piano in Carnegie Hall at 13 years old. He reminded us of the countless hours it takes him to master his musical trade.

He took another deep breath. With absolute poise, Rod continued his speech and told us his first keyboard was a gift that he received in a gift drive while living at Austin Street Homeless Shelter. He went on to tell us how he has been homeless twice in his life. He ended by saying that any one of the gifts that we donate could change a life.

I felt tiny in that auditorium. As Roderick spoke, I remembered the petty concerns that had been on my mind at the beginning of the assembly. I felt selfish. I knew others did too. This young man came to school every day and left his own problems off campus. He was at every sporting event and knew every student’s...

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