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Learning To Address Poverty

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Gemma Kirby
Staff Writer

        A small and peaceful coffee house is located on Hennepin Avenue just half a block from Minneapolis Community and Technical College, an institution that prides itself on accepting and acclimating to peoples of all abilities, ethnicities, and walks of life. The coffee shop has become a hub for students who come to study, socialize and relax.
        While stopped at a red light next to the shop last week, I made note of the serene environment that its occupants seemed to be enjoying. My eyes settled on a young couple seated at a table situated quaintly near a wilting flower box just outside the shop’s doorway. The two, who appeared to be students, were talking and laughing while enjoying their coffee.
        As the light changed to green and I began to accelerate, I noticed, less than four feet from their table, his limbs sprawled awkwardly on the ground, an obviously unconscious homeless man lying face down halfway inside the coffee shop’s lobby, just in time for the afternoon lunch rush.
        So, what’s wrong with this picture? Just as I would have liked to continue driving, half-heartedly believing that maybe the two students occupying the table in such close proximity to this man were blind to his need (and therefore could not provide much empathy for his situation), it occurred to me that in order to purchase their coffee, they would have had to literally step over this man’s body on their way to the barista.             On the remainder of my drive home, I couldn’t shake this coffee shop image from my head. It seems that the prevalence of inner-city homelessness hasn’t simply raised our awareness of homeless people as a whole, but only led to a trend of taking their presence for granted and therefore ignoring them all together.
        It puts a knot in my stomach to think that, after all we have accomplished in the way of diversity accept ance here at MCTC, just half a block up the street two of our students are sitting idly by while a Minnesota citizen, homeless or not, is possibly deceased only a few steps from where they are sipping their lattes over some last-minute midterm cramming.   
         As Citizens of MCTC, the United States, and of the world, we need to be acceptant of, and caring towards, all people – not just towards those to whom it is convenient or politically correct to do so. As a school, we are proud to say that we embrace diversity. But as a people, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Although I do encourage it, I’m not asking students to volunteer at homeless shelters or even give money to the poor, but rather, I ask that next time you encounter a person clearly in need, homeless or not, that you will condescend to inconvenience your day, if only for a minute, to help that person in need. You can do this by asking the person if they need help, and in the event that the person cannot respond, notify the proper authorities. This can and must be a habit that we adapt to our everyday lives. Instead of turning a blind eye to need, hunger, and helplessness, we need to make the simple gestures that make this world a better place. Only by doing this can we declare proudly that we indeed embrace diversity in all its forms.

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The Student News Site of Minneapolis Community and Technical College
Learning To Address Poverty