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I See You, Why don't You See Me?
I'm alot like you
Some of my most desperate times have isolated me. The average person finds it uncomfortable in the acknowledgement of pain in those they know, much less those they don't. Our society is hyperactive. Those not moving fast enough, must either get out of the way or be buried under the dust kicked up by those in their frantic race to the top. A personal misstep on the ladder up, leaves a person struggling to regain balance and can begin a downward spiral leaving them too beaten to contemplate extricating themselves. Attitude, past experience, physical and mental health all play into the complicated equation of resilience. It is easy for those with resources, family, health and relative success to develop callousness toward those that are down on the totem pole.
The economy today has changed the climate toward homelessness. In the past, it has been regarded as less circumstantial with judgements of laziness, slacking, no ambition, stupid, crazy, loser. Since the recession, it is spoken of in different terms with a generalized fear. Today's employed have no guarantee that they will enjoy that status tomorrow. "That could be me" makes it a different story, the possibility of a personal story. The working population, some of which had developed a blind eye towards the homeless, now has eyes wild open. The fortunate are seeing family, friends, high powered executives to the blue collared workers, affected by the economic plunge. Many of the now unemployed, accustomed to living at a level at or above their former income, are now on the unemployment dole, trying to learn to scrounge the next meal for themselves and their families. Health care, once expected and paid for through their job, is now a luxury. Homes in foreclosure, bankruptcy, the inability to acquire credit is humbling.and dehumanizing. With unemployment rates at anywhere from 9 to 12%, life has changed for all of us. If not yet living the life of someone who has lost nearly everything, it is impossible not to consider it. You could be next. Sitting from that vantage point makes homelessness upfront and personal, no longer invisible.
How does it feel?
There but for the grace of God, go I
During all the years I was employed, I never lost sight of the fact, I was lucky. Especially, while employed at a family-owned company in downtown St. Louis, where my window on the world exposed me daily to the plight of the homeless, I became acutely aware of the overt distaste the general public has for this particular group of unfortunates. I was chastised by some coworkers for associating with the regulars whose trek brought them in my field of vision daily, when I would sometimes share a smoke, small handouts, brief conversations on short breaks in my workday. Some tapped on the window, waving, saying hello, acknowledging me. Accustomed to being either ignored, invisible, shunned, brushed off or cursed, they were pleased to be viewed as fellow members of the human race, Their faces expressed gratitude for something rare in their difficult lives, civility. I still think of the group, wonder how they are doing, each with a different story to tell, all of them afraid of the shelters. Many trudged with all their worldly goods on their backs, in the summer, sweltering beneath their clothing, in the winter, not enough to keep them warm...they walked. Through necessity, they all exemplified a spirit of independence, resilience over extraordinary circumstances and a will to go on. Most were short on hope, deterred by alcoholism, drug addiction, physical or mental illness. Some were dangerous, ex-convicts, paranoid schizophrenics, with many using theft or other methods of deception as a means to survival.
I subscribe to upholding the law and live accordingly. I do not believe the ends justifies the means. However, I am aware of too many incidents of violence, lawlessness and inhumanity perpetrated by those who took an oath to "protect and serve" and, as a result, I fear law enforcement far more than with the homeless I have encountered.
Police in action
Homeless man dies from beating over a can of beer
More questions than answers
- Who are you more afraid of, law enforcement or the homeless?
- What laws could make humanity more humane?
- Why do we need the legal system to enforce civility toward each other?
- What is wrong with this picture?
- How did we get this way?
- Can things change?
- What, when, how?
As the economy has fallen, so too, do the dominoes and anarchy appears less an improbability. With joblessness affecting all portions of society, plant closings forever and a sense of desperation fueled by hopelessness, life for everyone is more perilous. The right to bear arms bodes for disaster as more are affected by lack of the bare necessities, food, and shelter. The local news shows an increase in violence, bank robberies and home invasions. Hunger is a powerful motivator. For many, their only reprieve is alcohol or drugs, adding fuel to the fire. As states struggle with their financial deficits, there have been budget cuts resulting in decreases in the numbers serving our police, fire and rescue departments. The questions are many, answers few.
I pray for relief for everyone. And so it goes..