07 November 2012

Panhandling?

They say that college isn't all studying and preparing for tests, nor is it all hanging out with friends and exploring new places and things.  Trust me, it's seemed like it's been one or the other for me MANY times.  But sometimes, you get to do something really cool that has significance in the classroom, but is also a super cool experience.  That definitely happened for me yesterday.

I'm taking a social psychology class.  Honestly, it's one of the best/most interesting classes I've taken thus far at LC.  For this class, we had to do a "Deviance Day" project where we did something socially deviant and record the reactions of the people around us.  After several ideas, I finally settled on dressing up all fancy, going downtown, and begging for money from strangers.  I figured that people would feel pretty strange seeing a guy wearing a shirt, tie, and slacks asking them if they had any spare change.

The sign was a nice touch, no?

Overall, I was not disappointed.  I got some weird looks, made incredibly awkward eye contact with a bunch of people, and made a grand total of nothing.  I did get to talk to a few people while I was doing this, though.  One homeless man came up to me, told me I was going about things in the wrong way, and explained that he made, on average, $100 a day panhandling just like I was doing (minus the business casual wear, of course).  I had my picture taken by a stranger.  He later came up to me and asked what type of research I was doing (clever, clever him).

I brought that cup for no reason.


All in all, it was a pretty eye opening experience.  I've volunteered and given money to charity before, but I never took the time to stop and think about what it must feel like to have to ask people for money, and to have them pretend you don't exist.  It wasn't a great feeling.  On top of that, it was really, really hard to do.  Even when I didn't truly need the money, it took me a few tries before I built up the courage to actually ask people for money.

It was one of those rare school projects that really changed the way I saw things.  I learned a lot about deviant action, of course.  That was the point of the project.  But I didn't expect was the new perception of the people I see walking around downtown that I now have.

If you want to know more about the really cool projects that Lewis & Clark students do, about academics in general, or about the amazing volunteer opportunities that we have on campus, feel free to email me at hhigger@lclark.edu