A Very Different Tourist Experience

By: Marin Williams

There are certain associations we make with the city of Washington DC: The White House, Obama, the Smithsonian, and our Nation’s capitol. As Gap students, we had a very different tourist experience. Instead of taking pictures in front of the capitol building, we went to the Hill and lobbied in support of The Global Food Act. Instead of eating at world-renowned restaurants, we made hot meals for the homeless. Instead of going to the botanical gardens with our grandparents, we cleaned the houses and yards of the elderly that could no longer upkeep their property.

This past week, we did not have a typical school-group experience in D.C., but I would easily say it was much more meaningful than any history lesson I could have learned at a museum. All of these wonderful associations we make never cover the problems that the city faces: the massive population of homeless people, the increase in gentrification, and the limited access to nutritious food. This week, our group was exposed to many issues that we had always known had existed, but for the most part we ignored.

I was challenged this week to take a deeper look at the cause and effect of being homeless. I have often encountered homeless people in large cities and my initial reaction is to ignore them and keep walking. I realized this week by doing that, that I am objectifying that person. Even acknowledging a homeless person within your thoughts gives them validity as a human being. My classmates and I were encouraged to not idly walk by and ignore the problems of others, and I would like to extend this challenge to everyone. Next time you are in Washington D.C., and see a homeless person in front of a national government building consider their story, and remember they are human too.

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