I read quite a number of news articles and blog posts about homelessness from all around the nation each week. Then, whenever a homeless advocacy group releases a report or study, I end up reading those as well.
Most of the time, there isn’t a great deal of it which is positive.
A local government is passing ordinances to further limit the activities of the homeless; police are ordering the dismantling of homeless encampments; homelessness is increasing but homeless services are not; and so forth.
To be quite honest, it can be a bit overwhelming – and depressing.
Every so often though, one of the articles or posts is uplifting and inspiring.
Such was the case yesterday.
The article in the San Francisco Examiner started with these two simple sentences,
"Leah McConnell’s brown-bag lunches aren’t anything special, just a simple sandwich, snack and a drink.
Neither are the plastic baggies she filled with snacks and items like socks and a toothbrush."
For the past two years, Leah has been doing what she can to help the homeless in her community.
She originally came up with the idea as she rode around the city and began noticing the homeless.
According to the article, Leah had wondered "… what it must be like to be hungry and need help and decided to do something about it."
Although busy with singing, cheerleading and competing in pageants, Leah is determined to help the local homeless for as long as she can.
To some, Leah’s efforts may not seem like much. However, consider that she is 7-years old and in the second grade – which means that she began her "homeless outreach" while still in kindergarten!
That’s pretty amazing, if you ask me.
It does make me wonder though.
How is it that Leah was able to take notice of the sufferings of others and feel enough compassion to actually do something; yet so many adults haven’t?
I think perhaps it is because Leah’s mindset hasn’t been polluted by the stereotypes, the stigmas and the misconceptions which are attached to homelessness.
She didn’t associate the folks with the many adjectives – such as lazy, derelict, drunkard, and etcetera – which are so often made synonymous with homelessness.
All she saw were people who were in need.
And, that’s the key: she saw people.
They may not have been the best dressed. Some of them may have even appeared a bit "scruffy" looking. Nonetheless, to Leah they were people who needed help.
There is no denying that ending homelessness is not an easy task. It is a complex social issue which doesn’t have a "one-size-fits-all" solution. As a result, putting an end to homelessness may seem insurmountable.
That may very well be the reason why we’ve never put forth a concerted effort to provide the homeless with the types of intervention services to help move them off the streets.
Can we completely end homelessness?
Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work toward that goal.
It seems to me though, that the first step is for us to set aside our prejudices, look beyond the stereotypes, and see what Leah sees: people who need our help.
If Leah can make a difference, despite her young age… so can the rest of us.