Last night, I helped serve dinner to what seemed like a battalion of homeless folks.
I handed out the dinner rolls, which seemed kind of lame, but I also filled-in on the salad bowl when needed. I discovered that I could use salad tongs AND hand out a bun at the same time. Who knew?
Anyway…standing there on the front lines, so to speak, as I was, I got to see firsthand just who the homeless peeps in Sacramento ARE.
First of all, they are Human Beings like the rest of us. They are not necessarily any better or any worse than anyone else just because they are homeless. They are people like you and me.
And you know, homelessness can happen to anybody…ANYBODY. Many folks live their whole lives, month-to-month, just one paycheck away from disaster.
And so when peeps from CHURCH say, “I ain’t gonna sit and eat with no homeless people,” I have to wonder…. I mean like, you have never been broke or down and out ONE time in your dadgum life??? You’ve done EVERYTHING right?!?!
So who are these sunburned people wearing tattered clothes who often manage to have bicycles and cell phones, but no roof over their heads?
Some of them are guys who have just been released from jail or prison who have nowhere to go. No family, no friends. Whatever their crimes, they have served their time and one can only hope that, with so many odds stacked against them, they can somehow make a go of it.
Sometimes I have to admit I have more respect for the guys who have done the time than for the felons who can afford high-priced attorneys who can get them out of doing ANY time.
Other people who are homeless are mentally ill. Many of them have very few options…they have been abandoned by their families, social services, the health professionals. And yeh, some have access to medication but just won’t take it. But bottom line, mental illness is not a choice. Sometimes the decision not to take meds is part of the mental illness!
And somehow they survive…mumbling to themselves, hearing voices in their heads, dealing with brains that are not wired in the usual way. On the streets….
Some people wind up homeless after a disability renders them unable to work. A domino effect occurs: fired from job, kicked out of apartment or house, sleeping in car, car payments skipped, sleeping on streets. It’s like falling helplessly down some endless rabbit hole.
There are some guys and gals who just simply can’t hack it in the structured 8 to 5 world that has become the status quo. Who said that EVERYBODY has to be hardwired to live life daily with two 10-minute breaks, a half-hour lunch, a two-hour round-trip commute and breathing recycled air within the confines of a 5 x 5 cubicle?
Other peeps have lost their jobs and/or unemployment benefits. Some are veterans of the US military who have been shell-shocked with brain concussions and abandoned by the system that employed them. Others are alcoholics or drug addicts.
Still others were horribly abused as children or young adults. Their self-esteem is in the dustbin and they have not had the luxury of buying $100/hour therapy. They wind-up in an endless cycle of handouts and shelters that sometimes enables them to continue to have low self-esteem and remain homeless.
And okay, there are some who are just plain old low-lifes and scam artists and you can’t believe a word they say.
But the point is that they are all people who have some kind of story to tell. Just like each of the rest of us has a story that is uniquely our own.
Nobody can take our personal stories away from us…they are what make us who we are. The good stuff AND the bad stuff.
I often like to sit with homeless folks at the community dinners or at the coffee cart after Saturday evening service and listen to them because some of the stories are fascinating.
There is no other story like William’s or Mike’s or Ron’s.
The world is made up of ALL of our individual stories. To discount one person’s story is to discount everything that connects us human beings.
Just, you know, sit and listen once in awhile. At the very least, you may wind up more grateful for your home and car, your bed and…your sanity.
©February 2011 by Phyllis J. Hanniver
Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.