This is an "interesting" time of year for me where this blog is concerned.
Halloween is behind us. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And Christmas is not too far behind.
It’s also the time of year when I seem to get quite a bit of "extra" email in my inbox.
Those extra emails I receive come from folks who are beginning to get into the holiday spirit.
That holiday spirit causes them to begin thinking about those who are "less fortunate" than themselves. As a result, they are looking for a way to "give back" to the community in some tangible manner.
Some of the emails I’ve received thus far have been inquiries about who they might contact to volunteer to help feed the homeless for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Some have asked where they might make donations of clothing, food, and etcetera. A number of them have asked my advice as to what types of items they might put into "care packages" which they can personally hand out to the homeless.
Although I do my best to reply to each of those emails to the best of my ability, I nonetheless have mixed feelings about the answers I end up giving.
It isn’t that I question anyone’s good intentions or their sincerity. And I certainly would never dissuade anyone from these types of charitable acts.
If anything, I do my best to encourage and praise such actions.
All the same, when all is said and done, I am painfully aware that at the "end of the day" the homeless will still be homeless. They will have come no closer to escaping homelessness.
It isn’t because they enjoy living life on the streets for the holidays. It’s just that they presently have no other alternative. They haven’t been provided with the types of assistance which might potentially help them rebuild their lives.
Most folks are perhaps familiar with the adage that, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for today. But, if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."
The majority of the types of services offered to the homeless only feed (and shelter) them for today. The same holds true when members of the community personally engage in charitable acts for the homeless.
Yet, even when services are offered which teaches them "how to fish," the homeless still find it difficult to move beyond homelessness.
The reason: knowing how to fish doesn’t mean that a person will fish – especially if they do not have the rod and reel.
We can teach the homeless "how to fish." We can even show them the "where to fish."
However, due to their economic situation, there aren’t all that many homeless who will be able to acquire the "rod and reel" with which to fish.
Feeding and sheltering the homeless: there is no doubt that these are good things.
Nevertheless, as a society, we must go the extra step.
If we genuinely desire an end to homelessness in our communities, we must begin implementing the types of services and programs which truly offer the homeless with the ability to acquire the "rod and reel" so that they can "feed themselves for a lifetime."
That isn’t to say that society should just provide everything to the homeless without expecting them to do something on their own behalf.
Even so, we should be willing to help them as far along as we can with one specific goal in mind: to help them become housed and as self-sustaining as possible.
One part of the solution is for us to move beyond having charitable feelings toward the homeless only during the holiday season.
And one way to do that is to recognize that the homeless are people 365 days a year – and not just around Thanksgiving and Christmas.