There is good in humanity. Some strive for equality. Some fight for the rights of others. Some cannot help but be empathetic to those around them. The flip side to that coin is that all too often, as a whole, humanity is greedy, narcissistic, and judgmental. One may not see it on a person to person basis, but one cannot deny the prevalence of self-indulgent tendencies executed by individuals that seem to never be able to put themselves into any other person’s shoes. As a species, we take so much for granted. We have the power to do great things, and we squander it, while at the same time criticizing others that have never had the chance to do what we are blessed to just to make ourselves feel better. We act as if our actions should have no consequence, while assuming that the consequences of others are well-deserved. We lack the ability to listen, not just hear. We have a long way to go.
There are many instances in which this is applicable, however, this morning I wish to focus your attention to the circumstance that recently lit a fire inside me. Life in and of itself is hard enough as it is when everything goes according to plan. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and for many, just surviving isn’t enough, as many want a chance to enjoy life. Now what if you add a bit of abnormality to this mix? Say one’s family wasn’t exactly supportive, or perhaps someone was born in an area where the job market was slim to none? Maybe an unexpected medical emergency emerges. Even still, someone could have a plan to better his/herself through college, only to have trouble getting there. No matter how much drive one has, there are some things out of one’s control. What happens when bad luck turns to worse luck, and for some small reason, a person loses everything just like that? Don’t kid yourself, it doesn’t always happen slowly over the course of years of bad decisions. It can happen in an instant, and it can happen to anyone if chaos decides it is your turn. What happens? That person very well, without the support of those around him/her, may become homeless.
Many of us could not fathom coping with such a circumstance, yet thousands upon thousands face this as their real life. Let me reiterate this since many people tend to dehumanize the homeless or use them as a heart string-pulling tabloid article to exploit them for personal gain: These people aren’t just characters in a story or a movie, this is real life, and all too often there are no happy endings, just forgotten faces turned into statistics. Being homeless in and of itself is tragic and frightening. One would not have a safe place to sleep, nothing to eat, no bathroom or shower, and little to no clothing. This is already a horrible situation, but it is a snare that few people can escape no matter how much they want the chance to better themselves. Too often I hear people say “Oh, well they should get a job or go to school, then they won’t be homeless.” I would like to point out the absolute ignorance of such an ill-thought out statement, since those people don’t look far enough into a situation that they have the luxury of not experiencing. Yes, getting a job pays the bills if one is lucky, and going to college enriches one’s education so that one can have more opportunities… However, stop and consider that to get a job in the first place or go to school, one requires personal grooming, clean clothes (many times specific clothes that must be purchased), and rest, all which are part of having a place to stay, which is hard to come by without a job from the start unless one has particularly charitable friends or family. Not to mention it can take time to get a job in the first place, much less to save up for a place to stay. Do you see the flaw in that logic? It is easy to tell people what they should do when you yourself have the means to do so.
I also see the influx of people that look down on the homeless, as if they are second rate citizens. They act as if these people have no merit whatsoever, as if they don’t have talent, intelligence, and dreams. They act as if the homeless can’t see the disdain in their eyes, and as if it doesn’t hurt them even more. As a human, it sickens me that my species does this on a large scale, and it sickens me even more that in today’s world so many people are allowed to get to that point in the first place. Let me be clear on something, for the people that are so offended by the unfortunate just for existing, I ASSURE you that the fact they have to beg and plead like a dog while people just walk on by offends their pride MUCH more. I know, I know, some people don’t like to see that life is not all roses and champagne, as it makes their First World problems seem as insignificant as they really are, but we need to stop dehumanizing the people suffering, lest we lose one of the very things that makes us human: compassion. Trust me, the people actually suffering hate it much more than you do to just see it for a few seconds before you avert your eyes.
The cynicism and self-centered nature that has become the new human condition is taken to a new level when one takes into consideration how many people on a daily basis do nothing but waste the opportunities that are proverbially handed to them on a silver platter in comparison. All the while they whine and complain about how they can’t afford frivolous, superficial possessions even after wasting the money they had on other frivolous, superficial possessions. People tend to take what they have for granted, forgetting that too many have much, much less with no chance to do better. They depend solely on human kindness, and in this world where people rarely take care of the people they know and care about that is a horrible thing to have to depend on. Some people may offer a few dollars to charity or to the people they see, but too often it is done out of a sense of easing just enough guilt and patting themselves on the back after choking down their third $10 coffee for the day while venting on social media how horrible their life is because the barista looked at them funny. While a few dollars can help someone eat for a day, that person still has no peace of mind nor stability. The only stability he/she knows is the routine of uncertainty. This is not to say that people should just give away their whole paycheck to others, but it is to bring everything into perspective so that people understand the severity of this scenario and see things from the side they don’t want to face. Keep in mind most of these people are not looking for a handout or your pity, they want the means to provide for themselves. They want to regain the dignity and pride they once had.
In closing, I want to say this: If you find yourself judging someone less fortunate than you, stop and remind yourself that everyone does not have the same story. Sometimes we don’t even get to write parts of our own story, but are left to try to turn a plot twist into a good ending. If you find yourself complaining about what you don’t have, then aspire for more, but appreciate what you have nonetheless. Don’t insult the struggle of those less fortunate by never being satisfied. If you can, take the time to learn someone’s story. Show true compassion. And remember to be thankful for that frustrating job, the nerve wracking exams, and the cluttered house. You don’t know what you have until it is gone, and if you lose it, you’ll be at the mercy of people that may be just like you. God help you if that is a bad thing.