“We’ve cleaned enough here,” I said, while looking at human excrement. Sorry guys, but that is what I saw. Together with our group of “office” volunteers, I am cleaning the Sarphatipark, a place where many vagrants “live”.
Actually, I was recording a promotional item for Serve the City to promote volunteering, but I was literally and figuratively confronted with the facts.
On our program today was cooking pancakes for the homeless and delivering them to the Makom walk-in house in De Pijp, and then an hour of dirt picking in our beautiful Amsterdam. Andressa baked delicious pancakes, we picked them up from her’s and brought them to the walk-in house together with Niels.
There, Youssef told his story about what it’s like to be homeless and how he was cooking in the kitchen for 60-70 visitors to the walk-in house. We walked out and Kevin, our cameraman, shared that he was impressed with his story.
Sometimes, I forget that what I see because of my work is not at all normal for many fellow Amsterdammers and that sometimes they hear the story of a homeless person for the first time in an open and honest, heart to heart conversation. And that I may witness this, I think is beautiful & valuable.
Off we go to the park where I meet my team of dirt pickers. I decide to walk into the bushes because the park looks relatively clean beside some bottle caps and cigarette butts. In the bushes, there is still a lot of junk and I go for the great treasures.
It’s a wrap. We have finished recording and the park is a bit cleaner again. We walk out of the park. And there he walks, a bum, in shorts, with a red dirty beard, and he looks troubled.
I get sad when I see him walking. I see people staring at him and I wonder, what is his story, what is his name?