Country Mouse

Posted: December 4, 2007 in Civil Rights, Discrimination, Health, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality, Stereotypes, Veterans

Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time on the phone talking with a friend who has been homeless now for about six or seven months. He just happens to be one of America’s 500,000+ homeless Veterans. He has been living on a mountain side, pretty much secluded from the rest of society for a portion of that time.

Recently, because he was in need of some medical attention, he came down from his mountain to go to one of the VA’s medical facilities – which meant that he had to "come down into the city." In the process of doing so, he has managed to find some temporary employment on a shipping dock of some kind. That’s a good thing. What isn’t such a good thing is that having been cut off from the rest of society has created within him this feeling of being a bit overwhelmed and "uncomfortable" in the city.  

Being cut off from the "rest of civilization" often times sets up barriers that, once there, are difficult to get past.

The reality however, is that it doesn’t take living on a secluded mountain side somewhere to be cut off from the rest of the world. There are literally millions of homeless, living right within the borders of cities all around this nation that are "cut off from civilization." But, that isn’t necessarily by their own choosing. It is the majority of the main stream community who is to blame.

Day after day, we see the homeless within our own communities and for the most part we ignore them – deliberately or otherwise. We pretend that they aren’t there, or if we do acknowledge their presence, it is to complain about how much of a nuisance they are, or how something needs to be done to "get them out of our city." Some within the city go out of their way to throw insults or shout obscenities at the homeless.

We yell at them to get jobs. We chase them away from public places. We enforce petty "anti-loitering" ordinances. We create new ordinances that penalize them for performing activities that, unfortunately, are part of being homeless: like having to sleep behind buildings, in doorways, under bushes and so forth, even though there are not enough shelter beds to go around.

We demand that the homeless behave in a "socially correct and responsible" manner, although we’re the first ones to exclude ourselves from those same demands simply because we have "homes" of our own.

When we see a homeless person, we walk around with our collective noses pointed so far up in the air, it’s a wonder that we can see reality at all.

And then during the Christmas holiday, when we’re feeling so warm and gushy and so full of "good will toward all men," we take our "holiday personalities" out of the closet and pass a homeless person a few bucks, pat ourselves on the back and make ourselves believe that we’ve done something extraordinary and wonderful.

To me, what would truly be extraordinary and wonderful, would be if we carried the holiday feelings of good will toward one another around with us during the rest of the year.

Perhaps then we’d be able to recognize just how little we’re actually doing to help reduce the numbers of homeless within our nation. Perhaps then we’d be more willing to reach out a helping hand to those homeless who truly want to be helped. Perhaps then we’d call to account our nations politicians who are so busy fighting among themselves like 5 year olds in the school yard sandbox and demand that they fund viable and effective programs to help transition the homeless back into housing of their own.

But then again, perhaps I’m just fooling myself by expecting us, as a nation, to develop a mature enough attitude toward the homeless overnight. Look how long it took us to accept the idea of civil rights for everyone. In fact, we’re still not at the full level of acceptance on that one.

As for my friend who has spent so much time on the mountain – he jokingly referred to me as the "city mouse" and to himself as the "country mouse."

The irony is that if my friend, the "country mouse" were really a mouse – especially one on the endangered species list – he’d probably have more people clamoring for some "do-gooders" group or another to "rescue" him.

As it is, just because at this point in his life he happens to be homeless, the majority of what he gets to look forward to is being ostracized by the rest of society. No wonder he wants to head back to the mountain.

At least there, the wildlife accept him as being part of their lives.

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Comments
  1. AnAmerican says:

    Isn’t it amazing how a society that has such little insight into the health and compassion of all it’s citizens ends up being the yardstick by which we often feel we have to measure up? Too bad society doesn’t place value on the character of it’s citizen’s as much as it does the shallow illusion of “success” defined by wordly possessions. The psychological impact of feeling ostracized from others plays tricks on self esteem and self worth further making it difficult to focus on the positive qualities that we have within. A road less travelled in life has every bit as much value as any other road.
    As a Christain I find it very hypocritical that at this most important time of the year, many who celebrate this holiday forget that the true meaning of Christmas is not about placing judgement on others… benevolence and acceptance of all should be mainstays of behavior each and everyday of the year whether we find ourselves in need or in abundance.
    Blessings to to you & your friend throughout this holiday season and each & every day of the year!

  2. tbearly says:

    All of the above was exceptionally well said. Particularly the point about us taking our “holiday personalities” out of the closet. That’s always been a sore point with me. Somehow, do people believe that they’re earning little Golden Ticket points towards “entrance” into heaven by acting a little less like a total jerk during the month of December?!

    Blessings to you and yours throughout this season, and into 2008. You’ve blessed us with your insights, and your big heart. It does MY heart good to know that there are people still like you in the world, it really does.

    *Fingers crossed* that the new year will be a much better one for both you and Country Mouse. Fingers crossed, with prayers being offered up as well.

  3. michael says:

    tbearly,

    Thanks for the prayers and the “crossed fingers.”

    I too, am surprised that so many people believe that doing “good deeds” during the Christmas season forgives them the rest of the year.

    Sadly, so many of the homeless in this nation are treated just a bit less harshly during this season than throughout the rest of the year. Still, a little is better than not at all.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could carry the spirit of this time of year with us all year long?

  4. Kneerncyday says:

    Nice site keep it up!

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