I think we are often guilty of not being capable of acknowledging how lucky we are.
When I read reports or see images of homeless people and children I always take a moment to reflect upon what I have instead of what I don’t have.
I have a roof over my head, I have a bed to sleep in, I have central heating, I have food to eat every day, I can have a hot bath or shower when I want and I feel safe when I close my eyes at night.
Aside from how lucky I am to be surrounded by my family, I also take a moment to say a silent thank you (to no person or entity in particular) for the fact my children are healthy, happy and safe.
All those things seem so simple and are probably also considered a matter of fact by the majority of us, and yet they aren’t. In a world of war and famine, there are too many people without the basic comforts of warmth, food, safety and housing.
The 21st century, an era of technology and discovery, advancing at such a speed we can barely blink without being inundated with another gadget or medical breakthrough. Amazing, breathtaking and admirable.
And yet, we are still incapable of feeding, housing and caring for the hoards of homeless men, women and children, who live on our streets. Not streets in Third World countries mind you, and that is just as tragic, but streets in so-called First World countries.
First World countries, who wage war on the vulnerable by making it a crime to feed the homeless. First world countries and towns who install spikes in the doorways of buildings owned by conglomerates, so homeless people can’t take shelter and sleep there.
Why? To drive away sleeping and sitting homeless people, because it looks unseemly and the sight of reality might drive away potential customers. The voice of commercialism vibrates loudly through the streets of the First World nations, it pings back and forth from the walls of the monstrously rich and bounces off the coats of the more fortunate.
There but for the grace of God, go I.
Or for the non-religious
There but for fortune go you or I.
The comments I encounter most often when a discussion about the homeless arises are often between two camps of thought. You get the people who think:
– I bet they aren’t really homeless. Begging is their job and they go home and sleep in their homes at night
– Don’t give them money they are all drug addicts and alcoholics. They will spend it on cigs and booze.
– He/she looks too clean they can’t be homeless. (When told that they were given food, shelter and shower for the night. ‘Well it can’t be all that bad then’)
– They should get a job like everyone else. ( Unfortunately many do not understand the cycle of bureaucracy these people find themselves in. No address, no job, no job- no money, no money-no house, no address-no benefits, no address-no mail and so on. Just a mad wheel turning with no exit)
Then you get the opposite side. The people who would give their last meal and the shirt off their backs to help others. They donate time, money, food and expertise to help those in a worse position than themselves.
In between those two groups you have the majority of us. Looking out for their own before others, but also willing to help those in need. This is by far the biggest group of people and those most likely to believe the way to help the homeless is an insurmountable task.
Well it isn’t. I understand in our dire economic situations it may seem like a wall that can’t be scaled or just one more drop of water in your own very full barrel. Opening yourself up to compassion can be a scary thing to do.
All it takes is something as simple as the bringing them any surplus blankets, duvets or clothes you may have (best to enquire at your local collection point what exactly is needed) or buying extra food at the store. If you know of any homeless near you, talk to them and find out if they need assistance. Help them get in touch with agencies and people who are willing to help them.
They have managed to create a beating heart of willing and able volunteers, supply of needed resources and they link the necessity of helping the homeless in a global capacity. Bringing local communities together with local people in need.
You might have some skill they can use, you may have extra clothes or blankets to spare, some extra food or just your precious time. Without compassion for each other what are we but base creatures stalking the planet we live on with nothing in mind but self preservation and self.
It could be you one day or it could be me. Don’t just walk on by and think ‘I’m glad it isn’t me.’