Washing the feet of Berkeley's homeless

Discussion in 'Bizarre and Off-Beat News' started by Casshew, Mar 22, 2004.

  1. Casshew

    Casshew Former Member

    Messages:
    27,884
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Kelly Nilsson is a UC Berkeley student from the wealthy, conservative suburbs of Orange County, and every Monday night, she spends a couple of hours washing the feet of Berkeley's homeless young.

    The service is part of a youth clinic program run primarily by UC Berkeley undergrads near campus with funding from the university and other sources. It was there I met Nilsson, 19. She had just finished washing one young homeless man's feet using a tiny scrubbing brush with a rubber ducky on its top and a small square pink bar of soap.

    ''My mom thinks what I'm doing is gross,'' she said, ''but I really like doing it. I had no idea what other people's lives were like until I started volunteering here.''

    No one is sure how the foot-washing started, but Ryan Houk, 20, a Cal student who helps coordinate the clinic, said he thought it probably started for religious reasons (in the Bible, Jesus washes his disciples' feet as a gesture of humility) but evolved into simply a nice thing to do for people who are out on their feet all day.

    Nilsson said that at first the foot washing ''felt awkward. You don't know what to say. I didn't want to do it. But then I decided to challenge myself. I learned a lot of people want to talk. You'd be surprised by how much they want to tell you.''

    Berkeley population of homeless youth is about 500 in a city of 110,000, but they're quite visible, begging downtown and up by the campus in shaggy packs, sleeping on the pavement.

    One night, I met Miguel Angel deLeon, 30, who said the foot washing relaxed him and took his mind off the streets. He had brown hair and a long brown beard tied up in a beard ponytail. He wore a silky white paisley shirt over layers of other clothes. When I asked him why he found himself on the streets, he said: ''I lost my girl and my kids so what else is there?''

    On another night, I met a 23-year-old guy who gave his name as Spencer. He wore black, a silver ring through his nose, a gigantic safety pin dangling from one of his belt loops. He said besides the obvious pleasure of having a beautiful woman like Cal student Birdie Nguyen wash his feet, the ritual made him feel homey and safe, the way you sometimes feel when you're taken care of as a little kid. ''It relaxes me completely. It makes me feel a lot better.''

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/03/21/INGJ75M4SO1.DTL
     
  2. Loading...


Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice