There is a great deal of controversy surrounding a group of homeless people who have chosen to take up residency in a park located in the heart of a downtown “sun belt” city. February is one of this cities busiest tourism months and the root concern (Chamber of Commerce) appears to be how this “public display of homelessness” will be “perceived” by “winter visitors”. During a recent television interview, a homeless man offered that “he would prefer to be in a shelter where he and others could sleep on a bed, take a shower and have access to reasonable nutrition”. An advocate for the homeless shared her dilemma of having more homeless people than available shelter space. It is clear that everyone has a different opinion on this situation. Downtown business owners fear that potential customers will be driven away, homeless advocates are expressing a dire need for more shelter space and many of the local politicians appear to be playing to the opinion poll of the day.
I was recently asked my thoughts on the “plight” of the homeless vs the “plight” of the city. I gave it some thought and arrived at this conclusion.
I have never been homeless. I am however, very aware that but for the grace of God, I too could be living on the streets. I live a blessed life where my basic needs are met and I have more than enough to share, which I gladly do. I understand rules and ordinances and I understand the economic impact of tourism. I understand mental illness and what it means to fall on tough times. I am acutely aware that I was born into a stable home and provided a solid educational foundation which I often attribute to the above average opportunities I have enjoyed throughout my lifetime. A different sperm could have produced a much different story. I believe that before we casually and often callously pass judgement on others, we are well served to place ourselves in that person’s shoes. It is not up to me to determine the criteria for what another person’s ideal life circumstances should look like. If someone visiting this city is uncomfortable being around homeless people, it might be wise for them to take a closer look at what they are afraid of. They may be afraid of finding themselves homeless. It is human nature to avoid what we fear. If a homeless “park dweller” causes problems or commits a crime then they should be held to the same standard as anyone else. To conveniently move them to a “back alley” until “the coast is clear” doesn’t seem like a reasonable solution to a bigger problem. As Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote in his book of the same title, “there is a spiritual solution to every problem”. Now might be the time to test this theory.
Three things I am taking away from this “controversial” discussion…
Gratitude. I will continue to be thankful for everything I have been blessed with. I will not take anything for granted. “But for the grace of God there go I” is my mantra and it serves to keep me humble and grounded.
Compassion. “What you do for the least of my brothers, you are doing for me” is a reminder to show compassion and concern for those who are less fortunate than I am. We are NOT called to look the other way when we are confronted with the “uncomfortable” we are called to become part of the solution.
Non-judgement. It is easy to pass judgement on others. The challenge is to accept people for who and where they are and to send them prayerful energy. We ALL have a back story, we were ALL born into a family with various forms of dysfunction. None of us chose the sperm cell we rode in on! Different sperm, different story!
Enjoy a compassionate day! As always. I welcome your thoughts and feedback.