A lesson in homelessness: ‘You give to other people’

FLORENCE, S.C. – Take the soap. That’s one of many lessons Bryan Braddock and Byon Artrell McCullough gained from being homeless together for a week in Augusta, Georgia.

Walking in the cold and rain, Braddock and McCullough were offered soap from a homeless man who had extra bars. Braddock did not accept the gift, but McCullough did. That’s when Braddock learned the selflessness of the homeless community.

“If you have excess, you give to others,” Braddock said. “Basically, in the homeless community, you give to other people and create more blessings.”

McCullough connected with the giver, met more friends, gave them some of his supplies and got more supplies.

“They pass along whatever they can for other people,” Braddock said. “I wasn’t part of that blessing exchange because I didn’t take the soap.”

­­Braddock, executive director of the House of Hope of the Pee Dee, and McCullough, an entertainer, wanted to gain a new perspective of homelessness, so they spent one week in March panhandling, eating at a food bank and sleeping in makeshift shelters. They went out of town so that their surroundings would be unfamiliar.

“It was the hardest week for me physically, emotionally and spiritually,” Braddock said.

McCullough has experienced homelessness before the trip, but he said he returned with a fresh perspective. The friends are sharing their insights with the Florence community through speaking engagements and daily interactions.

They want others to get in the game, one of their takeaways from the trip. The best way to help the homeless is for individuals to feel personally responsible and assist, not just rely on legislators and city officials to do the work.

But how do you help?

“Ask them what they need,” Braddock said.

It may be directions to a homeless shelter, a water bottle or $2. People duck their heads and scurry past the homeless. Braddock and McCullough said they felt the degradation.

“The homeless community looked out for us, embraced us. Society looked over us, ignored us,” Braddock said.

Showing interest and giving what you are able builds the receiver’s confidence, Braddock said.

Only one non-homeless passerby initiated a gift. McCullough was singing a Daughtry song and asking for money. A listener gave him a few dollars, walked away, then returned with a front-row seat ticket for McCullough to see Daughtry in concert.

Braddock said people easily jump to judgmental conclusions when they see homeless people smoking cigarettes or drinking a beer.

“If I would have been out there for two more weeks of people ignoring me, trying to find shelter, getting wet in the rain, I’d be smoking cigarettes, and if I had been out there six weeks, [I’d] be drinking beer,” Braddock said. “Why not? If you’re ignoring me when I’m not, why do I care what you think if I am?”

Instead of being judgmental, McCullough said, people should meet others where God met them. A lot of times, homelessness is not the only problem people face. They may also have a mental disorder, be an alcoholic or physically handicapped.

Braddock said he learned to ask “why?” when he sees something out of the ordinary. Why is a woman on the street with her child? Maybe she is escaping an abusive situation. Maybe she got kicked out of her house.

“It’s so easy to pass judgement on them instead of inquiring what got them in that situation,” McCullough said.

Throughout the trip, Braddock and McCullough said, their hearts were broken for the people who have so little but gave so much.

On the last day of the trip, they visited a church that met below an overpass. At the end of the service, a collection was taken for an orphanage. Homeless men and women gave dollars and dimes – whatever they had – to bless others.

Before leaving Augusta, Braddock and McCullough gave their blankets, pillows and extra cash from panhandling to the homeless. Braddock also visited an ATM and added $30 to the donations.

“I was like, man, if I keep hanging out with you I’ll be broke,” Braddock said to McCullough. “He was like ‘nah, man, you’ll be blessed.’”

McCullough said that is biblical truth. Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (NIV).”

During the week, filmmakers got footage at a distance from the friends’ journey. They will create a documentary which will be released during the summer. Leading up to the release, McCullough will upload short trailers to his YouTube channel, which can be found by searching “nocash 843.”

McCullough is an entertainer and singer who has a YouTube channel with more than 120,000 subscribers. He goes by the name kNOw Ca$h.

Braddock and McCullough met in December. Sharing breakfast together kindled a relationships that challenges both of them to set their preferences aside for the sake of loving others.

“None of this would have happened if Bryan didn’t meet me where I was,” McCullough said. “Hopefully this just pushes people to step across the aisle, get out of your box, befriend someone you wouldn’t befriend and see how God might use it.”

Braddock said love is willingly giving to another even when you know someone cannot give in return.

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