One Size Fits All… NOT!

Posted: July 2, 2007 in Acceptance, Homelessness, Misconceptions

Among other things, Sundays have become the day I use for doing regular maintenance on my laptop: things like ScanDisk and Defrag. Since I don’t have an electrical outlet of my own as of yet, I went to a McDonald’s, bought a cup of coffee and after making sure the laptop would run for another day or two began working on a FAQ page and a Resources page for this site.

Most of the time, the piped in music, the sounds of passing traffic and the conversations of other people are nothing more than ambient sounds. Every now and again one voice or sound rises above the rest, but that’s the way life is.

Normally I don’t eavesdrop – at least not intentionally. Yesterday however, I overheard parts of a conversation that caught my attention.  

Three young women came in for lunch and sat across the aisle way from where I was sitting. Although I’m usually a bad judge of age, I’m guessing that they were probably in their very late teens or in their very early twenties.

As they began talking among themselves one of the young women began telling her friends about hippies. For some reason that seemed odd to me.

I’m old enough to remember hippies, yippies and yuppies. So, I sort of know what each group was about.

As this young woman began to explain to her friends what "types" of people became hippies and why they became hippies, I could tell that she was misinformed. From hippies, her conversation segued to homeless people.

Although she was correct that many of the homeless are persons with mental disabilities, and that there are a large number of homeless who are veterans, the rest of her data was extremely inaccurate. For the most part it seemed to me that she believed that all persons who are homeless are so out of choice. And, while it’s true that there are indeed many homeless who prefer homelessness to anything else, there are just as many who would love nothing more than to not be homeless.

Sadly I reflected that her perception of what homelessness is all about is identical to what the masses believe homelessness to be – and that perception is based on misconceptions perpetuated by the media, television and movies. These misconceptions put all homeless people into the same melting pot, creating in essence, a one size fits all mentality and do not allow for persons to be seen as individuals.

After their conversation turned to something else I quickly jotted down the URL to this blog on three pieces of paper, walked across to where they sat and told them that I couldn’t help overhearing that they had been talking about homelessness. I told them that I wrote a blog about homelessness.

After they left, I began to wonder about the misconceptions that most Americans have regarding homelessness.

It seems to me if we’re going to have a positive impact on reducing the numbers of homeless in our nation, if we’re going to find a way of helping the homeless become self-sufficient productive members of society, we must stop thinking of them as "homeless people" and begin to see them as individuals who happen to be homeless.

It may seem simplistic to think that changing the order of words can have an impact on the way we view things – but they do.

The way we structure our phrases, the words we choose to use, even the way we speak them, all influence our way of thinking and, subsequently the way we view, not only ourselves, but others. That’s the reason that public speakers and politicians go through great pains with their speeches. They know the power of the spoken (and written) word.

That’s the reason that one size doesn’t fit all – at least when it comes to the homeless…

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