Cracker Jacks

Posted: August 19, 2007 in Homelessness, Self Esteem

This morning when I stopped at my favorite convenience store for my morning cup of hot chocolate, as usual I spent a few minutes chatting with the cashiers on duty. I joked about my being so old that I remember a time when there wasn’t any electricity. All three of us laughed.

From there the topic turned to things that we all remember from our youths. One of the things that came up was Cracker Jacks. I mentioned that I used to love Cracker Jacks when I was a young boy mostly because of the "prize" that used to come in the box.  

At one time I had quite a collection of toys that had come out of Crack Jack boxes. Now however, Cracker Jacks no longer come in a box. They come in a bag like most of the other snack foods. And the prize is no longer a real "toy." Now, the "prize" is about the size of a large postage stamp and is a paper "toy" that would not be capable of holding the attention of a dead frog – let alone a child’s.

As I left to start my day, for a few minutes longer, I thought about some of the other things from my childhood. Then I began focusing on what I had to do today.

As I continued on my walk, the thought occurred to me that many of the local homeless that I know spend a more of time talking about their pasts and very little about their futures. They talk about what their lives were like prior to becoming homeless – jobs they had; family life; marriages and relationships; dreams, that at one time, they’d had; the types of lives they had been leading and so forth.

I began wondering why so many of the homeless that I know seldom speak about what they’re going to do in the future. But, after a few minutes of thinking about it I realized that most of them speak about the past because many of them don’t feel they have a future – or at least not one that is attainable.

Many of the homeless have hit barrier after barrier in an attempt to get out of homelessness that they have simply given up trying. To them, if something comes their way that will help them get out – good, but if not, then they no longer have the desire to aggressively seek a way out – or more accurately they don’t see that trying will be to any avail. They have pretty much given up.

As a result, they only thing they have of any lasting value is their past – the good times they had, the loves they encountered, the joys they shared with those who meant something to them. But as for the future, their feeling of having been cut off and castrated from the rest of society doesn’t allow them to believe that they can ever again have a life as they did in the past.

Consequently, their feeling is that there is no need to focus on what they can’t have. After all, why try for the brass ring if it’s beyond your grasp? Better to deal with only today and forget about tomorrow.

Or at least that’s the way many of the homeless that I’ve met view life…

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