The problem with having easy connection to the internet and having Momo beside me is the fact that I have forgotten to read books. I used to spend hours finishing a single book, lost in the character’s world while I travel to new places without leaving the miserable space that I call my room.
Now, I consider it a miracle if I finish a book in five days, the high stack of unread tomes in my bed side table looking at me accusingly. I can hear the books whispering, “traitor — slave to technology!” and I am almost tempted to forgo Facebooking and blogging just so I can devote time to my books once again.
That’s why I thank my sister, the Queen for lending me this book:
Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America tells the story of Mike Yankoski and his friend Sam Purvis, who spent six months living on the streets of America trying their best to live as Christians and children of God while faced with drug addiction, helplessness and violence that permeated the streets of America.
Mike and Sam are both Christians who grew up in upper middle class households enjoying their life as privileged young men blessed with good education and family. Unlike the majority of the privileged in America, Mike aims to test his faith in God and his claim of good Christian living by forsaking the trappings of material wealth and seeing what it’s like to live in the streets. Armed with backpacks, a 3-dollar sleeping bag and their trusty guitars, Mike and Sam trawled the dangerous streets while panhandling (by singing worship songs) in the hopes of raising money for their everyday food as well as travel money.
They wanted to know: stripped of material wealth, can a young Christian still do what is expected of him as a believer of Christ?
“Under the Overpass” is one of the best books about the Christian faith that I’ve ever encountered my whole life. You see, I am born a Catholic and I have no intentions of changing my religious belief (my sister though converted to Christian-ism), but the lessons imparted by Mike and Sam were not bound by any denomination or religion.
Love others just as you loved yourself Isn’t this the primary teaching of Christ? That we should always try to see ourselves in others? In the book, Mike and Sam likened living in the streets to “losing your pride and dignity” — you smell horrible, you look horrible, at times you eat from the trash, you ask people for money, people don’t even look at you…it’s like you don’t exist.
I won’t be a hypocrite and say that I will start giving money to every homeless person that I see on my way to work. It might be different in America and it’s different also here in the Philippines. In fact, on my way home earlier, a little kid went up the jeepney to ask for money. The kid kept touching people’s hands and harassing us for a few coins — it was sad and annoying at the same time. You know why? this kid (about 5 years old, i think) shouldn’t be asking people for money. It’s the responsibility of the persons who created him. I did not gave a single cent because that will only encourage him to beg. It will also encourage his mom and dad to left him in the streets to earn money for them.
In the Philippines, the best way to help is to be part of a third party organization or an NGO that promotes the welfare of street kids and the homeless, like Virlanie Foundation, Bantay Bata, Golden Acres (for the elderly and destitute) and many other organizations. Do not ever give money directly to those who beg because you do not know if they are part of a syndicate or if they will really spend it on food.
This sad reality of poverty in the Philippines is what depressed the hell out of me. How can I make a difference, like Mike and Sam? After thinking about it, I realized that we become our version of ideal persons through our “neighbors” — the people around us: our parents, our siblings, co-workers, the weird neighbor down the street.