On The Rack

Posted: December 3, 2007 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Money, Morality, Stereotypes

So there I was… standing in the check out line yesterday at the Vons to buy a bottle of water and I happened to glance at the racks and spot numerous magazines and "supermarket tabloids." Their glaring headlines told me about which Hollywood or otherwise famous personalities were having extra marital affairs; having weight problems; and/or plastic surgery; getting in trouble with the authorities; or any other such nonsensical rubbish.

Of course the thought that I had was to wonder just how much money these newspapers (and I use the word "newspaper" in the broadest, most absolute loosest sense of the word) are making each year. I have this suspicion that it’s quite a bit. In fact, despite the soaring price for a gallon of gasoline these day, I wonder if these supermarket tabloids might be making just as much as the giant oil companies.  

As I left the Vons I started thinking about the reasons that who knows how many Americans waster their money on these publications. I mean, come on, let’s face it – are there really that many people who actually believe that these tabloids are actually printing real news and that what they do print isn’t really telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We all know that they seem to enjoy publishing the most salacious of gossip, yet day after day Americans lay down their hard earned cash to purchase these "publication." And, it makes me wonder why.

My guess is that it has to do with a couple of the most undesirable of human traits: selfishness and envy.

We envy those who have "more" than we do and we selfishly like it when they have problems. It gives us this perverse sense of pleasure to know that the "high and mighty have fallen." For some unknown reason, the idea that someone else is in a worse position in life that we are makes us feel better about ourselves: it gives us this false sense of superiority.

It’s no wonder that so many people across this country refuse to make the time to educate themselves about homelessness. This way, as we see some poor soul trudging under the weight of all of their worldly possessions, we can point our fingers and shake our heads with a "tisk-tisk" type of attitude and feel better about ourselves and feel that we must have our own lives "together," because at least we’re not homeless. Some folks will give themselves an "added bonus" and yell profanities and obscenities at the homeless – and all so that they can feel better about themselves.

And perhaps, that is the reason that so many of us are unwilling to see past the stereotypes of homeless, because if once we started to see past those stereotypes, we might just be forced to recognize and admit to ourselves that homeless people are just that: people. People who have feelings. People who are someone’s child. People who are someone’s grandchild. People who, once upon a time, played with other children. People who feel the same emotions that the rest of us do: joy, sorrow, hope, despair, and yes, even love.

I think that the greatest gift we could give the homeless this holiday season would be to see past the stereotypes and begin viewing our nation’s homeless as our fellow citizens who desperately need our compassion and aid. As an added bonus, we should carry the feeling of "peace and goodwill toward all men" around with us throughout the year.

Then maybe, we’d have a genuine chance at making significant strides at reducing the numbers of our fellow Americans who are forced to live their lives on the streets of this nation’s cities and not just left sitting "on the rack" to be disposed of.

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