Posted: November 30, 2007 in Compassion, Discrimination, Friendship, Homelessness, Hunger, Morality, Relationships, Stereotypes

Yesterday, mid-morning, I was at one of the local shopping centers heading toward the Von’s and I spotted a dark colored SUV. In the passenger seat, standing with its feet on the door, was a small dog looking intently toward the supermarket entrance/exit. To me it was apparent that it was waiting for its human to come out.

Although I was there when the owner of the SUV finally came out, I can will imagine that this pet was overjoyed to see its human companion. Pets are like that, you know – they’ll love us no matter what. They are highly non-judgmental in regards to their loyalty to us.  

Later in the afternoon, when I stopped into a McDonald’s to grab a quick bite to eat, I saw a small dog with a leash wearing an olive drab colored "coat" waiting outside the door – this one also looking intently at the doors waiting for its human. Then, all of a sudden, the dog became excited.

When I look at the door, the gentleman who came out of the door and walked toward the dog was a homeless man I’ve seen on numerous occasions. I his hand was a small bag, which he was opening as he approached the dog and pull out two double cheeseburgers.

After unwrapping the first double cheeseburger, he placed it on its wrapper down on the ground for his canine companion then – after he saw that the dog was busy with its meal, he unwrapped the second double cheeseburger and began to eat himself.

While waiting for my order to be ready, I keep looking back through the doors to watch the homeless gentleman and his dog. After both he and the dog had finished their meals, he picked up the wrapper from the ground, placed it back in the bag along with his wrapper and walked over to one of the trash cans to throw them away, after which he walked back to his dog where he squatted down and made sure that the dogs coat was on properly.

The gentleman continued to give his pet all due attention by petting and scratching it behind the ears, etcetera. The dog gave just as much attention to its human – if not more so – by wagging its tail with vigor and by trying to give its human as many "doggie kisses" as possible.

Finally, the gentleman picked up the leash, and off they both walked.

One of the things I noted during this entire scene were the looks and actions of the other patrons who were either walking into or out of McDonald’s. They seemed to go through great pains to avoid being within a certain distance to this gentleman and his dog.

Some might argue that these folks were trying to avoid getting too close to a "strange" dog for their own safety, but based on the dog’s size and demeanor I would say that was highly unlikely. The only other conclusion I can come to is that they were walking in wide arcs around these two because the gentleman was obviously homeless.

There are quite a number of people who would tend to believe that, since a homeless person can barely take care of themselves, it would be irresponsible to have a pet of any kind. It may be, who knows. It’s not my place to say whether it is or isn’t.

But seeing that homeless gentleman and his dog brought to my mind the reality that all of us – homeless and non-homeless – need companionship of some kind. If we feel ostracized by one segment of society, we are going to turn to a different segment of society to fill the need to feel accepted – and yes, even feel loved.

I wonder if perhaps we a perpetuating a problem by continuing to discriminate and disassociate ourselves from the homeless people we encounter.

We seem to avoid interacting with the homeless as much as we can, and by doing so we are truncating their basic need for diverse human fellowship and force them into associating only with other homeless persons. Moreover, by maintaining – whether intentionally or not – these artificial "limits and borders" of human interaction because of a persons economic or residential status only further place barriers in the way of a homeless persons’ ability to raise their standard of living.

Early on, during President Regan’s term in office, something remarkable happened – the "Iron Curtain" came down and millions of people finally had a chance at freedom and the potential for better lives.

Isn’t it time that we tore down our own "iron curtain" and provided a mechanism that would afford the homeless of our nation those same freedoms?

That can only come to pass if we tear down the concrete walls in our hearts and consciences.

So long as we continue to deny this nation’s homeless our fellowship; our companionship, we will be denying them the right to be seen and treated as human beings.

  1. Mabel Darling Phipps says:

    Fellowship at what cost?

    I give the homeless people I encounter a wide berth because, it is impossible to tell at a glance which are dangerous and which are not. I have no pains whatsoever about walking near by and even talking to a sane homeless person who is not dangerous to me or others. But how can you tell at a glance who among the homeless are safe to be near? How does Joe Q. Public know who among the homelesss are crazed killers hearing voices suggesting others are a satanic being they must act against with violence?

    You see, the homeless companionship issue cuts both ways. For the non-homeless, life is all about self-preservation through risk reduction. People avoid the homeless not because, they feel guilty or pained. I do not avoid the homeless out of shame. I love people – all people including the homeless.

    I used to meet with a nice group of homeless people every morning for years at a downtown Baltimore Resturant and we had a blast talking over breakfast I often paid for. I learned much from my homeless friends and only stopped visiting them when I got a far better job in the county.

    Many non-homeless people live by the old urban adtage of never making eye contact with those you do not know because, they might be homeless due to psychopathic tendencies or criminal natures that put one at risk of violence.

    Giving a homeless person a wide berth, while avoiding all eye contact is just an unwritten rule of survival when living in America’s urban jungle. The Iron Curtain dividing non-homeless from homeless exists for all the reasons I specify herein. The Iron Curtain is a wall of personal security we who work erect simply because, it is not possible to tell the violent, criminal druggic drunken sot homeless from the cool awesome homeless folk who are just down on their luck and in need of help and encouragement. The Iron Curtain exists because, most non-homeless folk just do not want to risk meeting a drugged up violent thug homeless person and like in all cold war iron curtain war like situations it is the innocent non-combative homeless person who suffers most.

    As for the doggie and the homeless dude. I feel a homeless man should have the companionship of an animal and it is obvious to me this gentleman could properly provide and care for his animal friend. Everyone should have a friend and if this animal companion makes this homeless dudes life any bit more bearable then I am all for him having his canine friend. Homeless people are not inhuman, as such they still have love to give and dogs give and need love too so its a relationship that works.

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