Eyes Of The Heart

Posted: March 11, 2008 in Acceptance, Compassion, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality, Stereotypes

There are folks in my community who genuinely care about the homeless. Of that I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever. I’ve had the good fortune to have met a good number of them.

I’m sure that they don’t consider themselves as being special. In fact, I’m pretty sure they think of themselves as just the average everyday person – you know, the person next door who is just doing the best they can.  

They have obligations and commitments to keep. They have bills to pay. Some of them are living paycheck to paycheck. Their days are filled with taking care of themselves and their families. If they’re lucky they may even have enough to have pizza delivered every once in a while.

What amazes and delights me about these folks is that with all of their own cares and labors, they still take – and make – the time to reach out a hand of compassion to our community’s homeless. They allow themselves to listen to their hearts and consciences. They do more than just think about doing – they actually take action. In short, they care enough to be doers.

I know that there are many more who care about this community’s homeless. Yet, for some reason, they don’t follow through with what their hearts tell them. They give in to a brief moment of hesitation or doubt and – POOF! – in an instant the chance to make a difference is gone.

I’m not casting stones. I know that everyone doesn’t have the ability to help all of the time. It’s naive to expect it. Still, what if a person has the capacity to help and doesn’t – even if their conscience tells them that they should?

I’ve met folks like that. Their hearts tell them that they need to take action; they need to do the right thing. They even feel slightly guilty when they don’t. But for some reason, they are unable to take that one extra step.

It isn’t that they don’t care. They do. Nor is it a matter of indifference.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of a momentary indecision because of visual "cues."

I realize that some folks are hesitant to help a homeless person out of sense of caution. To be sure, there are homeless persons who are nothing more than social leeches – content to do nothing with their lives. Some of them can even be obnoxious and belligerent. In my experience however, there are also homeless individuals who are worthy of being shown compassion; who need a bit of help.

Unfortunately, many homeless are not candidates for someone’s "best dressed list." Their appearance often times works against them. And that makes some folks overly cautious about the homeless.

I’m not saying that we should just throw caution to the wind. That would be foolish. But, we need to learn how to discern when our caution becomes an obstacle to our doing the right thing. And the only way to do that, is to take the time to "get to know" the other person.

I know it’s a "Catch 22" dilemma, but life is like that. Sometimes you just have to step out in faith.

Carl Jung said,

"Caution has its place, no doubt, but we cannot refuse our support to a serious venture which challenges the whole of the personality. If we oppose it, we are trying to suppress what is best in man…"

Maybe all it will take is for us to learn to see the homeless through the eyes of our hearts; undimmed by stereotypes, misconceptions – and yes, even prejudice.

Perhaps then we’d be able to see in the homeless the very humanity that we would like others to see in ourselves.

  1. I liked this article a lot and I’d like to add one thing: people seem to be very much a product of their environments. In many cases, we can influence a person to help simply by briefly explaining the situation and saying, “Can you help?” Sometimes the situation is simple: there are so many homeless in our community. If you’re part of a nonprofit or volunteer group that helps the homeless, you can explain your mission. I wonder every day how many people aren’t “on board” simply because they haven’t been asked.

    The other issue is that there are so many causes to support; many people feel torn – save the rainforests or save the homeless? Travel to build homes in Guatemala or volunteer at the local soup kitchen?

    The homeless, while certainly just as human as anyone else, do not naturally attract sympathy to their own cause the way, for example, that children do. Maybe they just need a little boost from people like you.

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