As I handed the man, who stood ankle deep in snow on the side of the road, holding a sign that said “Homeless any help is appreciated”, a $5 bill, his face turned redder, his eyes looked me in mine and became tear-filled as he said, “Thank you”. I had just left home, and had ironically been watching Tent City, USA, a documentary on the issues of poverty and homelessness in Nashville, Tennessee. As the light changed, and I drove off humbled, grateful, and appreciative of all I have, I considered how blessed I am. I also considered, how many people will judge that man, turn their eyes, and put on blinders not just toward that man, but towards the people in our society who need us most.
Most people are a paycheck away from homelessness. Ask any of the people who lost their unemployment extension benefits on December 29, 2013 how good life is right now. That is one example, one layer to our quality of life issues in the so-called wealthiest country on the planet. I used that example, because often, people like to write-off homelessness as being due to a lack of work ethic, drug abuse, rebellion against norms, divorcing society, not paying their bills, mental illness, etc. And of course, if their families won’t help them, well surely, they must be wretched. But there are plenty of veterans on the streets, plenty of people with college degrees and formerly thriving careers.
See, people are comfortable not looking to understand how this happens to otherwise productive citizens. The how’s are plenty, as are the why’s. I spent a few more hours watching documentaries about Skid Row. Hearing the stories. The stories of the how’s and the why’s. The policies in place such as the Safer City Initiative in L.A. that criminalized homelessness in an effort to “clean up the streets”.
See, thing is, you can put blinders on, but remember you too may be only one paycheck away.
Nobody says when they are a child, “When I grow up I want to be a homeless person”.
Moral of the story is, we need to find our humanity again. People are hurting and struggling, and we are turning our eyes on our brothers and sisters. I will you will never have to see eyes that are not looking at you, but past you…as if you don’t exist.
Giving thanks for sight, and a roof over my head. Be blessed and give back.