About a week ago, I received an invitation to a "social" function – which was just a bunch of folks getting together and enjoying one another’s company. It had been a while since I’d done any personal socializing so I accepted the invitation. That gathering took place yesterday.
As I mentioned it’s been a while since I’ve done this type of socializing. There are a few reasons why. Mostly however it’s because I end up answering nothing but questions about this blog and homelessness during the entire ordeal – and that’s exactly what it becomes: an ordeal.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no qualms about answering a handful of questions regarding homelessness when I’m in a social setting. But, I do have numerous other interests. My life does not revolve around this blog. This blog is just one facet of my life. It does not make up the entire of my small universe.
To be sure, I have strong opinions regarding homelessness. I have quite a few ideas as to how to reduce the numbers of homeless in my community. And, I most certainly am disappointed with the manner in which the homeless are treated by the majority of people in the community. And, if a person "opens the door" for me to voice my opinion, I’m going to do so. That’ just the long and the short of it.
The folks who invited me to this function are people I met while I was still homeless. Through them, I’ve developed other friendships. So almost everyone who attended the gathering yesterday knows of my experience with homelessness. Out of this entire group there was only one person who didn’t know of my experience. But they soon found out when someone else asked about the blog; about the last few posts I’d published, etcetera. That sparked the inevitable question from the other person regarding what I blog about.
Fortunately, there were only a small number of questions regarding either the blog or homelessness. The friends who had made the invitation, knowing that I "needed a break," changed the topic and the remainder of the time was spent engaged in conversations about other things. And that allowed me to relax and enjoy myself.
Last night, when I finally returned home, I was tired. But it was a good tired. I’d had a pleasant time with friends. I had laughed. I’d made my share of "wise cracks." I’d expressed my opinion on a variety of topics. I’d listened to opinions posed by the others. We’d solved the problems of the world – at least as far as we were concerned. We had enjoyed just "hanging out" together. We all had different backgrounds; different personal experiences; different ways of viewing life. But we had one thing in common: we were people. But most importantly: we were friends. Able to accept one another’s peculiarities.
When I finally crawled into bed, for a brief period my mind was absolutely free of all thoughts. It felt good not to think about anything. It felt good to just lay there and let my body relax. Then for some reason, I decided to get up and add an entry to my journal.
Toward the end of that entry I wrote:
"I’m tired but I’m not sleepy. Actually, I’m feeling… well, I don’t know what I’m feeling. Maybe it’s just a bit of elation. Or maybe, it’s a feeling of gratitude because I was with friends who accepted me for me. It’s so cool that, even though I met L and S when I was still homeless, we’ve been able to get past that. Now I’m just Michael to them. I’m more than just someone who used to be homeless. Even when they do ask about the blog or homelessness, it’s like being asked how my back feels, instead of being asked about it because I used to be homeless. It’s just one of many things we talk about and not the main focus."
I wrote a few more things, then I crawled back into bed.
As I lay there waiting for sleep, I thought how nice it would be if the homeless were able to be accepted by the rest of the community; how the numbers of homeless in the community could be significantly reduced if we’d viewed them as "regular" people – and didn’t view them through eyes tainted by stereotypes.
Also, I thought about the many homeless that I’d met.
Some of the homeless I’d met have addiction disorders. Some have been homeless for quite a bit of time. And there were a handful of them who weren’t exactly candidates for a "Person of the Year" award.
For the most part however, the majority of the homeless I’ve met are basically good people who have found themselves homeless for a variety of reasons. Sure, there are a few of them who are homeless as a direct result of their actions. But, that doesn’t mean that they deserve to be treated as though they are of less value than anyone else.
It’s an easy thing to assume that a person is homeless because of something they’ve done; that homelessness is their own fault. And, yes, there are those whose homelessness is indeed their own fault. But, the majority of the homeless I’ve met are victims of circumstances – yet we continue to assume the worst of them, just because they are homeless.
And it makes me wonder if our assumptions about the homeless isn’t just a bit of arrogance on our part. We think we know why a person is homeless; that they’ve given up on themselves; that they’re just too lazy to do something with their lives. But, if we don’t interact with them; if we don’t make the time to find out if our assumptions are correct, aren’t we simply displaying our own ignorance and our own moral dishonesty?