Posted: September 16, 2007 in Acceptance, Compassion, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality

One of the most influential events in my life occurred when I was about six. I found myself with my very first library card. To many that may not seem like a big deal, but for me it was.

I would take out two or three books every week and would faithfully read each one – even those that I didn’t find particularly interesting or entertaining. The end result is that I developed a love and a passion for reading – something which has only deepened as the years have passed me by.  

At first I was making my choices on which books to check out based on how the cover looked. If it was visually appealing, to my young mind, that meant it must be a good book and if the cover was less than exciting to look at I figured the book couldn’t be all that interesting. Fortunately, as time passed I learned that – as the old saying goes – you can’t judge a book by its cover.

As an adult, I’ve also discovered that while judging a book by its cover isn’t the way to go, neither is judging a book by the many blurbs that most publishing companies like to add to entice you into buying. What it comes down to is that you have to judge the book by the content between the covers.

This past week, I’ve read three books. Two of them I was reading simultaneously: one during the day as I would be riding on a bus, and the other in the evenings after the day was over and I had kicked off my shoes.

Both books had cover that could be considered plain and non-descript but I found them both quite enjoyable and entertaining.

As a society, I believe that we generally have the tendency to judge homeless people by their exteriors and the title: homeless.

There are a number of reasons for this. In part it is because we aren’t completely aware of why people are homeless, what events transpired that brought them to homelessness. What it comes down to is that we are ignorant of what and why homelessness happens. On top of that, we are somewhat misled by all of the Hollywood fantasies about what a homeless person is.

This lack of understanding regarding homelessness, coupled with our skewed ideas of what homeless people are cause us to pull away, and often times, de-humanize persons who are homeless and this prevents us from being able to effectively help those who are.

I wonder if we fail to make the effort to educate ourselves about homelessness is not so much that we don’t have the time or resources, but rather that we might have to admit that we just might be wrong in our views? And, if once we recognize that the homeless are people it just might prick our conscience and sense of morality, thus forcing us to take action?

I also wonder if in not "re-humanizing" the homeless, not reaching out to those who are less fortunately than ourselves if we aren’t destroying our own futures? By not reaching out a helping hand in a true measure of compassion, aren’t we simply further accelerating the moral decline of our society?

And lastly I wonder if in allowing ourselves to remain morally anesthetized to the sufferings of the homeless aren’t we creating a future without hope – not only for the homeless but for ourselves?

And won’t we pay dearly for that?


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