Posted: March 20, 2008 in Compassion, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Morality, Religion

The Vernal (or Spring) Equinox occurred today. Basically, it marks the beginning of Spring and therefore a time of renewal or rebirth.

Trees, plants and other such living things come out of dormancy, "springing" back to life – as it were. In the animal world, those creatures that have been in hibernation "wake up."

The weekend will also be a time of a type of "re-awakening."  

For those of the Christian faith it will be Good Friday, also known as Crucifixion Friday and Easter (or Resurrection Sunday).

For those of the Jewish faith, it will be the Celebration of Passover.

What I find interesting about both sets of celebrations is that they are basically about the same thing: deliverance.

For the Christians, the sacrificial death – and the resurrection of Jesus – was a deliverance from their sins. For the Jewish people, it was the deliverance from their bondage in Egypt. In both instances, that deliverance came about through intervention of their Deity. And both were a form of redemption and rescue.

As to their theological or philosophical meanings I have nothing to say. I’m neither a theologian nor philosopher. However, thinking in purely humanitarian terms, there is a lesson to be learned from both religious observances. That lesson is about mercy and compassion. It is about extending a helping hand those who need a little bit of intervention in their lives.

There are approximately 3.5 million people all across this nation who are "houseless." Each day, they face a life of struggle just to survive. They are often times ignored and shunned by the society around them. Many times they are treated with ill will by the very community which they are seeking to re-enter.

I realize that there a lot of homeless who are homeless due to their own actions and choices. There are certainly those who have caused their own homeless. There are even those who are content with their homelessness. And, there are those homeless who don’t want to be "delivered."

But, what about those homeless who do not fit the stereotype? And, there are many of them who do not fit the stereotypes. They aren’t social malefactors. They aren’t trouble makers. They aren’t of the "criminal element."

They are our neighbors; our friends. They are our co-workers. They are fellow members of our Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples. They are folks we used to see at the supermarket and department stores. They are just "regular" folks who have found themselves in an oppressive "lifestyle" due to circumstances beyond their control.

A national economy that is virtually on edge of recession; a sagging job market; an artificially inflated housing market that makes it nearly impossible to find an affordable place to live; the ridiculously high cost of health care and so many other factors have left many an average everyday person having to face life without a place to live.

What troubles me about the high numbers of homeless, not only in my community, but throughout the nation, is that we have the ability to make a difference and significantly reduce the numbers of homeless. We have the capacity to help many of the homeless become self-sustaining members of our communities. But we don’t.

We are completely aware that something needs to be done to remedy homelessness. We even go as far as to say that something should or must be done. But, somehow we never seem to get around to it. And, when we do take action, the majority of the time, it’s not the right action.

We have convinced ourselves that homeless shelters and day centers for the homeless are the solutions. But they’re not. At most, these types of services provide only a meal and a bed, or a place for the homeless to "hang out" at during the day. Seldom do they provide any genuine or viable method for helping the homeless become self-sustaining and ultimately "housed."

The end result is that the majority of homeless never have the opportunity to be "delivered" from the bondage of homelessness. They get trapped in a vicious cycle of going from one homeless support service agency to another.

I’m not saying that homeless support service agencies aren’t important. Quite the opposite. They are a vital and necessary first step at providing aid to the homeless. But, that’s all they are – the first step.

If we genuinely want to reduce the numbers of homeless in our communities, we must find a way to provide for programs and services that allow them the opportunity to become a part of the community once again. In essence, what we must do is provide a way for them to be "delivered" from homelessness.

This weekend, as we celebrate our respective faiths, let us not forget that we were "delivered" as an act of mercy and compassion. Shouldn’t we, in turn, be willing to express and show that same mercy and compassion toward one another?

***** ***** ***** *****

I won’t be posting again until Monday. In the meantime…

Let me leave you with a link to one of my older posts – written about something that occurred Easter 2006:


I wish everyone a Happy Easter and Passover.



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