Sadly, everywhere I travel I see scores of homelessness. Does anyone ever wonder why these people are out on the streets in the hopeless side of town wandering with their only belongings. Wandering from place to place, visiting their daily stops to get food or water? Some have grocery carts or wagons with all they possess and if you ever notice how intricate their packing skills you will see and maybe even conclude how long they have endured the streets.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, New York City or Miami, somehow there is a common thread of why or who. Honestly, it is in our nature to be fearful of this culture, yes, it is a culture, as if they would hurt the common folk or steal from them. In my experiences that just isn’t the case. Say hello to a person on the streets and they often times will smile and say hello back. We tend to ignore and avoid eye contact with them because of our own fear that they will ask us for spare change or more. But really I think some of them just want to hear a nice word. If you were in their shoes (or shoeless) you may take an opportunity to ask for some small tidbit that would make their day less stressful too. But should we act as though they are not there or don’t exist? If so, are we uncomfortable with our position in society compared to theirs?
Before you answer that question, just let me give you a couple things to think about. How often have you actually encountered such a situation where you were surrounded by or just came upon a person who is living without a shelter or what we call our house? To say the word home would be politically incorrect because we all have a home. Some have homes that they rent cheap and some of us have homes that we own. Some of us have very large structures that house our material goods and memories. But too often many have homes that are made of cardboard, plastic bags and worn wet dirty blankets made into tents as well as other materials that they so creatively collected to create a shelter for the cold nights and wet days. Do you think they have pride in what they own or possess any differently from you? Do you think they don’t celebrate the holidays or their birthday like you?
So back to being uncomfortable in the presence in the company of a homeless person. Why exactly are you uncomfortable? I think that is quite a big part of the answer to a feeling you may have toward that person or group of people. Is it because you worked hard and feel that you earned what you have and they should too? Is it because you believe that there is nothing you can do for them? Maybe not giving them a hundred dollar bill would make sense but would it hurt to buy them a warm cup of coffee? Oh yes, I can hear it now. The group who has everything saying “well what about the people who pose as homeless and make thousands a year panhandling?”. Is it right to hurt the others because of a small percentage of people who take advantage of a society out of ignorance and selfishness? Have we not seen that in every culture, every walk of life?
I guess the reason I wanted to talk about this issue is because the weather is getting colder now and more than ever we have a growing population of homeless people who have various issues and backgrounds. Clearly our country is not taking care of them and our rich are more concerned with finding tax breaks than considering the people that they make money from. Especially the drug companies and their CEO’s. Clearly our medical coverage in this country is determined by profits and controlled by the health insurances themselves. Also our mentally ill and behavioral illnesses must have good treatment that is covered and these people could be properly cared for if money wasn’t the real issue. We are in an epidemic of a lifetime with Heroin and other drugs mostly stemming from the prescription drugs that flow like a river in the United States from doctors who mean well to doctors who are trying to earn an extra buck, or should I say Mercedes or two. And that is just the tip of everything.
Imagine if things were different.
Well, you can actually make a difference. Be nice to everyone. You never know who is having a bad day. Don’t assume that a person who is at their lowest on the streets is violent or uneducated and that they wouldn’t appreciate being spoken to like the other person walking across the crosswalk with you. Smile and say hello to everyone you meet or come across. That person may be contemplating suicide or feeling sad about a personal situation and you can actually make a difference just by making a caring gesture. It’s just a hello or a smile. A thank you will also do nice. Take the time to make a difference because you can. One smile one caring thought at a time and we can make the world a better place.
I wrote this after driving past several people who are living on the streets in Salt Lake City. It was late morning and as we drove past the mission I could see the stream of people leaving after getting their morning ration of food or leaving their warm cot that they were fortunate to have the night before. When I walked into my warm cozy and very nice hotel room I just felt achy inside from the sadness I feel for these beautiful souls wandering and passing time.
Later that evening after spending a beautiful evening at the Mormon Temple and treating myself to a lovely delicious dinner I walked passed a homeless man who had set up camp across from a Macy’s window that encased a large Christmas ornament made of candy. As I walked by I slowed and turned to smile at him and said happy holidays. He smiled back and genuinely said “Thank you for the lovely smile” and watched me keep on. I felt warmth from his smile. He didn’t ask me for anything and had I gone to the ATM I would have given him some money for a coffee or hot chocolate. I am going to work harder at being a better person. We need to give back especially when we are doing good. Please take the time to make someone feel better even if it’s just for a moment.