Paper Or Plastic

Posted: December 11, 2007 in Children, Compassion, Homelessness, Mental Health, Misconceptions, Morality, Stereotypes, Veterans

Although most department stores and supermarkets now use plastic bags, there are still some places where the things you’ve bought will get placed into paper bags. Some places offer both and so it isn’t all that unusual to hear the question: "Paper or plastic?"  

According to those folks who are part of the "green" movement, the type of "plastic" used to make all of those plastic bags biodegrades faster. Of course there are those who say that paper biodegrades faster than those plastic bags. Which ever the case, the whole idea is to do the least amount of damage to the environment. That’s all fine and dandy except during the Christmas season, when everything seems to come in paper – especially all of those gifts that will piled under who knows how many Christmas trees.

It makes me wonder just how many thousands of tons of paper will find its way into landfills this holiday season – and of course, how many trees it took to produce all of that paper. And all for what? A few minutes of excitement ripping all of that paper to shreds just so we can have the pleasure of opening up our gifts and realizing that we didn’t get what we had secretly hoped for?

The truth is that we’ve become a "throw away" society. We dispose of anything and everything once we feel that we no longer have a use for it. Unfortunately, that "disposable" mentality has gone far beyond only the material aspects of our lives. It has gone so far as to extend itself to way we view many people: disposable and unimportant; no longer of any actual use.

Case in point: the numbers of homeless veterans in this nation.

There are roughly 500,000+ homeless veterans in this nation. On almost any given night of the year, almost half of them will be forced to sleep out of doors because there are neither enough shelter beds or VA sponsored housing programs to help all of them. And, although we’re thankful that they were of use to us when they wore our nation’s uniform, now they’re just homeless. And we all know just how useful homeless people are, right?

Then of course, there those 1.5 million homeless children. They haven’t yet proven that they can be useful – so we don’t have to worry our pretty little heads over that yet, do we?

Let’s not forget the nearly 6% of America’s homeless who are aged between 55 and 64. Since they’re technically senior citizens, shouldn’t we just go ahead and place them into a nursing home somewhere. I mean that way we can, "set them and forget them." After all, at their age, there’s not much more use we can get out of them.

Oh, and let’s not forget the 22% of America’s homeless population who have some form of mental illness. Everyone knows that a person who is mentally disabled can’t be made useful. Isn’t that right?

Yeah, right! Give me a massive break!

Homeless people aren’t things! They are human beings with hopes, dreams and feelings just like the rest of us. Neither are they disposable simply because at this point in their lives they have no home. That’s what the word homeless means, you know. Without home.

Homeless doesn’t mean disposable. It doesn’t mean unworthy of aid and compassion. It doesn’t mean dumb. It doesn’t mean "social nuisance" or pestilence. Homeless doesn’t mean "drug addict" or "alcoholic." And it most certainly doesn’t mean worthless.

Until we get it through our collective thick heads that the homeless are persons just like us – with the exception that they don’t have a home – we will never make headway at significantly reducing the numbers of homeless in our nation. And – the numbers of homeless will only continue to rise.

It isn’t a matter of "paper or plastic." It is a matter of providing a way of helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Because regardless of how little we may have personally, there are those who have even less than that.

Yesterday evening I was speaking with one of the local journalists in this community and I half jokingly said that one way we could pay for helping the homeless is by taking a few days off from the war in Iraq.

We could call the Iraqis and say that we were taking a three day holiday. Then instead of spending all of that money on bombs and such, we could spend it on funding programs that would help the homeless.

Now that I think about it though, I’m sure that Congress would find some other foolish way of spending that money instead.

More’s the pity.

It seems to me that the only thing plastic is our attitude toward our nation’s homeless.


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