National Hunger & Homeless Week: An essay by Jaime Padgett

We invited our volunteers to write about what motivates them in their work for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Their essays will be posted daily as we mark National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week.

This essay is from Associate Board member Jaime L. Padgett. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School, Jaime is an attorney who has volunteered with the Law Project at CCH. 

When I was a little girl growing up in rural Mississippi, my grandfather often told me, “Smiles are free and they should be given away often.” It wasn’t until my early twenties, when I moved to Washington, D.C., that I remember encountering people experiencing homelessness. I heeded my grandfather’s advice and readily shared my smile with them. You can imagine my surprise when I was thanked time and time again for such a simple act: acknowledging someone’s existence.

Over a cup of warm coffee with an elderly gentleman living on the streets, I came to realize how frustrated, marginalized, and ostracized people experiencing homelessness can feel. It has been my pleasure to work with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to raise awareness and advocate for the thousands of people experiencing homelessness here in Chicago. If a simple smile is enough to brighten someone’s day, it is inspiring to imagine what a motivated group of people like those at CCH, advocating on their behalf and lending a hand, can do for their lives.