Antidote: Compassion

Posted: July 11, 2007 in Compassion, Homelessness

Most people go through periods of feeling nostalgic – or at least I’m guessing that most people do. Something triggers a memory and off our minds go to days gone by: things we did; things we felt; things we had; and things we should have, but didn’t do.

For the most part, it’s fine to reminisce, but it can become all too easy to get so caught up in it that you lose track of the here and now.  

I’m not a person who does a lot of chit chat or small talk. It isn’t that I don’t know how to crack a joke or make quips from time to time, but generally when I do have a conversation with people those conversations tend to lean toward topics that are a bit more sober than not. It’s just my nature I guess.

Over these pass few days, some of the homeless I’ve been talking to have been conversations that I would categorize as chit chat. And that’s fine too, in part because homeless people need a release from the stresses that they face each and every day – even if it’s only by thinking and talking about their past lives.

One of thing that these most recent conversations have had is how their homelessness came about and why they are still homeless.

One of them has been homeless for roughly 10 years. It isn’t that they haven’t tried getting out of homelessness, or that they don’t want to get out of homelessness, it’s that no matter where they have turned to for help they don’t meet certain criteria for any type of aid other than the standard bed and meal at a homeless shelter somewhere.

Others who have been homeless for extended periods of time have related similar experiences – they don’t qualify for this program or that program and the list goes on.

What these individuals have in common is that they are not addicted to drugs or alcohol, nor do they have mental or emotional disabilities and, they are the ones who have learned how to "work" and abuse the system. They are people who are in the 45 to 55 age group who have been stranded in a lifestyle that they would love to be rescues from.

Most of the programs that homeless support services agencies have are geared toward those who have some type of disability. Everyone else is left to fend for themselves the best they can. And because there are no homeless services programs designed to meet their needs, they are the one who suffer in relative silence. They are the ones that society has forgotten. They are the ones who live an impoverished life that others cannot even begin to imagine.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said:

"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."

I wonder how long it will be before we find it in our hearts to begin truly applying the remedy of compassion.

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