In his book, The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:
"Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere."
In yesterday’s USA Today, I read an article about a Florida 12-year old named Zach Bonner.
The article caught my attention because I’ve published three previous posts about Zach; the first which was back in November of 2007.
Zach is pretty much your typical 12-year old – but with a slight difference. Homelessness is something which he has a very strong interest in.
No. Zach isn’t homeless. Nor has he ever experienced homelessness. However, for half of his young life, he has been an advocate for the nation’s homeless children.
The USA Today article mentioned that Zach had been named as Beliefnet’s Most Inspiring Person of 2009.
Other nominees included such well known personalities as Actor Michael J. Fox; High School Football Star Kaleb Eulls; and Capt. Chesley Sullenberger (the US Airways Pilot who, earlier this year, was forced to make an emergency landing in Hudson River with minimal losses).
I think what is the most inspiring to me about Zach is that he doesn’t really think of himself as doing anything out of the ordinary. He isn’t – as the saying goes – "full of himself."
What he is full of is a desire to help those less fortunate than himself. And, therein is a lesson for the rest of us.
That there are homeless in our nation is probably no secret to most of us.
We know that the homeless exist. We see them moving about the streets of our communities. We may offer them something to eat. Some of us will even hand a few dollars to a homeless person from time to time. Then there are those who will go out of their way to avoid having any type of interaction with the homeless.
It’s a pretty fair guess that most of us would be a lot happier if there weren’t any homeless whatsoever in our cities. But, how often do we take it upon ourselves to try and make a difference?
Can it be that we don’t make the effort because it requires us to personally become involved and we simply don’t want to be bothered with it? Or is it that we’ve allowed ourselves to become comfortable with the belief that it’s the responsibility of government or of charitable organizations to do something about the homeless?
I’m not saying that folks aren’t willing to help. I’m somewhat convinced that the majority of people would be willing to do so if they knew how to go about it in such a way that would actually make a lasting difference.
I think that is what causes the most frustration for folks.
They do what they feel they can do to help. Yet, they see the numbers of homeless continue to increase within their communities. And it gives the impression that homelessness is something which can’t be remedied. So it is understandable that they might feel less than enthusiastic in offering assistance.
Of course, there is also the reality that many folks simply do not have the monetary resources to help. As a result, they may feel that they have nothing to offer – and so leave it to others to do something.
However, there is something that all of us can give to the homeless: human dignity.
Most times, it doesn’t occur to us to give a homeless person just a few moments out of our busy schedules. We may offer them something to eat. Or perhaps give them some spare change. And once that’s done, we’re on our way. But, seldom do we actually take the time to genuinely interact with them. Consequently, homelessness remains something which is impersonal to us.
This is why folks like Zach Bonner are such an inspiration to me.
The homeless children he is advocating for are people. That makes homelessness something "personal" to him. And because it is "personal" it compels him to work toward raising public awareness with the hopes of making a difference.
Shouldn’t the rest of us also be willing to make homelessness just as "personal" to ourselves?