The Just Say Hello Tour is a project I've been working on for the last 9 months, but really it's been a passion of mine for the last 5 years. The issue of homelessness is arguably becoming an epidemic. Nationally, over 500,000 people are homeless, and it's estimated that half of them are children. Locally, a state of emergency was declared in Seattle and talks rage on about how to solve it. Like many people, I have ideas of ways we can make this problem better (or worse), but I don't really know how to solve it. Nobody does. What I do know is that we must start somewhere, and say hello.
My daughter Rory and I are going to drive around the country for four months, volunteering in camps and shelters, meeting people on the streets, and saying hello. We are selling everything we own before we go and moving out of our home and into a camper van we will travel in. We will pass out water bottles, make sandwiches, and serve soup, but most importantly, we will say hello. We will look people who are suffering from homelessness in the eyes, take their hands, offer hugs, and listen to their stories. We will tell their stories to you, and we will challenge the rest of America to join us, because I believe this is where it starts.
We don’t need to raise awareness of homelessness; it’s a visible issue everywhere you look. But most of us have learned to ignore it, to not see it: to not see the PERSON sitting right there, suffering. We don't know how to solve it, so more often than not, we avert our eyes. We walk right by. And yet, how can we ever address the issue of homelessness without recognizing the humanity of the people who are right in front of us suffering?
With this trip, I hope to build empathy, connection, and to spread LOVE while activating community, because when we are all involved, I believe we can end homelessness together. Our first goal will be to inspire 10,000 people to find their own way to 'Just Say Hello', and we will have a form and a counter on our site where people can let us know if we are reaching that goal. It’s a big goal, and 10,000 people seems like a LOT… but it’s also the number of people who are homeless just here in King County, where Rory and I live.
We live in a community with 10,000 people who don't have the safety, the security, and the comfort of a home... something Rory and I have taken for granted, but will now give up to go spread this message. I hope we can inspire the entire country to join us in stepping out of their comfort zone to 'Just Say Hello'."
We could use your help. To fund this trip, I have sold nearly everything I own, and bought a camper van for us to live in out of my savings. I am funding all expenses on my own, but will have to scale back my business while I am on the road. We are hoping to raise $5,000 to help with the costs. While this amount won't come near to funding the trip, it will allow us to create volunteer events at the tour stops with water, food, and necessities to hand out to those we meet who are homeless, and will pay for our gas expenses to get from one place to another.
Will you help us to spread this message, and "Just Say Hello?" Just as every hello counts, so does every dollar to support us in our mission.
You can follow our journey at www.justsayhellotour.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/justsayhellotour, and on Instagram @justsayhellotour.
- Marcus Cole
- Ivonne Paris