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December PeP, Night One

Posted on 12/13/2010 @ 12:56 PM

Read more about Panim el Panim through the eyes of a teen participant, Leigh Goldstein, North Shore Hebrew Academy.

Our first few hours at the Panim el Panim seminar were emotional.

After getting settled at the hotel and refueling with dinner, we heard the stories of two formerly homeless gentleman. The first, John, educated us about homelessness and taught us about what we could do using CARE: Contribution, Advocating, Reaching Out, and Education. As he spoke, the second man sat behind him, observing the room underneath sunglasses, a hat, and a big winter coat. He almost looked as though he was still homeless. John introduced him as Donald. When he started to speak, he was speaking so low that the enture room was straining to hear him. He opened up about his tragic childhood growing up in an abusive household, though still somehow managing to succeed in school, even getting voted "Most Likely To Succeed” by his classmates.

At this point, we were all assuming that he would proceed to tell us how he did not live up to his title. However, as Donald continued his story, he began shedding layers, literally. First came off his winter jacket to reveal a button up shirt. Next, the jeans revealed suit pants. Each new piece of clothing that we saw represented a point he made in the story of his life: slowly climbing up and up. The final change came as Donald reached the point in his story when he was hired as the first formerly homeless Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

As he spoke, his voice rose in volume and he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a suit jacket, shirt, and tie. He pulled off his winter hat and sunglasses, and in front of us stood Donald- fully transformed into who he is today. Every single person in the room burst into cheers as he shattered all of our previous stereotypes of what a homeless person is like. John and Donald explained to us the small things we can do to help homelessness. It was definitely an experience we will never forget.

This is the Place to Keep Up With Panim el Panim!

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