The heartbreak of being homeless is that no one is willing to even look at you.
A lot of folks try hard not to see homeless people for a variety of reasons. Some feel bad, because they are struggling themselves and can’t help; for some it is disconcerting to see another person who is hurting so deeply; others feel guilty because they themselves are doing well; some just flat out don’t like them.
But homeless people are human and from their end, or from mine at least, when I was out there; it is difficult having 90 percent of the population unwilling to make eye contact with you. This is a story from my Portland journal followed by a poem.
I was wandering through Saturday Market when I saw a cup of fresh fruit laying relatively close to the top of a garbage can, so I reached down, pulled it out, and started eating. Not bad, an assortment of various melons and some coconut.
Well an employee of the market came by and said I couldn’t do that, he said his boss would kill him if she saw him letting me do it. So I asked if I could talk to his boss. He said I could but never made a move to go get her.
I asked him why it made any kind of difference. He started listing off a bunch of nonsense: it’s private property, unsanitary, etc. but then he hit on the real reason: “People don’t want to see someone digging through trash cans.”
Out of sight out of mind, that is essentially how many people, including the Portland government folks, want things to play out especially in their parks and downtown business districts. Can’t make the homeless go away, unfortunately, but we can, by policy design, keep them herded out of sight as much as possible.
Now it is easy to rationalize this type of behavior, the homeless: drug and alcohol abusers, lazy, lying, stealing, manipulating, scum. But that is people’s heads talking and not their hearts. “How can a person say they have God in them, see a brother or sister in need, and do nothing to help?” that is from the first letter of John.
Trapped in the illusion of success,
I had all that I wanted and needed,
but I was lonely because I didn’t have myself
Trapped in the illusion of poverty,
I had nothing I wanted and only sometimes what I needed,
but I was lonely because I didn’t have myself. When I found myself I wasn’t rich or poor,
but I was happy because I had myself.
Now we all have God in us or we wouldn’t be walking around. I believe when you see and treat people, the homeless for instance, as some how less than you and undeserving of assistance or love, you are actually working against your own heart. So if you actually want to make your heart feel good, find someone in need of care and care for them.
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