A Small Investment

Posted: April 21, 2008 in Acceptance, Compassion, Goals, Government, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality, Self Esteem, Stereotypes

A couple of days I wrote a post called, In Theory…

One reader, Katia Roberts, left a comment, in which she said,

It’s going to take "regular folks" to hit the streets and start adopting one or more homeless people to mentor and/or assist.

She’s right. It is going to take us "regular folk" to make a difference.  

While I believe that government does have an obligation to provide adequate funding to those agencies and organizations that offer support services to the homeless, it is vital that we, the "regular folks," do out bit as well. Government can’t do it all. Nor, should we expect them to.

We seem to forget that government is only representative of its citizens. If we don’t take an active concern with regards to homelessness, how can we expect our elected leaders to do so? They pretty much take their cues from us. If we look down upon those who are homeless with disdain and contempt, then we can expect that our elected leaders will do the same. Moreover, if we have negative views of the homeless, chances are we are going to vote for leaders who have similar views.

On the other hand, it seems to me that, if we change our personal perceptions about the homeless, we will be more likely to elect leaders who in turn will be apt to adopt and enact laws and ordinances that are helpful to the homeless and will provide the mechanisms by which they can escape life on the streets. It goes in line with the idea that we reap what we sow.

I believe that one reason there are so many who view the homeless through jaded eyes is a lack of understanding about who can become homeless and why people become homeless. And unless it should happen that we or someone we know becomes homeless, our views will probably not change all that much.

The truth is that most of us don’t take the time to educate ourselves about homelessness. We don’t question the validity of our views. We don’t stop to wonder if perhaps the homeless are like ourselves: just people who are trying to do the best they can given their present situation. We seem satisfied to follow the rest of the crowd and their way of thinking with regards to the homeless.

Another misconception we have is about homeless shelters.

We have this skewed belief that homeless shelters and homeless support services are able to make enormous differences in the lives of our local area homeless. It’s a myth. Most homeless shelters provide only the most baseline of services – usually in the form of a meal, a shower and a bed. That’s it. There is just not enough funding for them to provide more than that. So, unless a person is unlucky enough to require aid from a homeless support service agency, they’ll probably never see just how little is actually being done to help our homeless.

But it will take more than just funding. It is going to take an attitude adjustment on our part. We have to remember the old adage that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

On her blog yesterday, a friend of mine published a post called, The Power of Compliments .

What really started me thinking were these two lines,

Compliments are an easy thing to do, cost nothing, yet the effects can be profound. I can’t help but think the world would be a better place if we focused on the positive and let go of the negativity.

I wonder if we were most positive minded in how we react and treat the homeless what we could do? Could it be that we’d be able to find a way to heal our nation of this devastating condition?

I’m not saying that we should just all run out, find a homeless person, pat them on the back and tell just how wonderful a person they are. That’s not a reasonable or realistic thing to do. But perhaps, if paid them the compliment of simply treating them with the dignity due to them because they are human beings, we might begin to bring about the restoration of their self-esteem. And possibly, once they begin to have their self-esteem renewed, they might just find the courage to move ahead with life; they might find the inner strength to desire a better life.

A person can only be treated as though they are less than human for so long before they begin to take on that attitude.

The ability to achieve a better life is affected by our own self-perception. If we believe that we are not worthy, we don’t aspire to anything better than what we have. On the other hand, if we have a healthy self-esteem we are more likely to behave responsibly – not only toward ourselves, but toward others as well.

My friend wrote in her post,

I’m resolved to compliment abundantly from now on…

One definition of the word "compliment" is: "Express respect or esteem for"

I’m willing to bet that if we started showing respect toward those who have no place to live, we’d be more able to help them find a way toward becoming productive members of our community.

Respect. A small investment that can yield such high returns.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    I’m amazed at the barriers we as humans put up in this world of ours. Once you take away the “wrappings” of wordly posessions all of us are very much alike. We are all sharing this earth with each other and to think that others are less worthy of a positive environment is simply ludicrous… our communities can only thrive when our citizens have basic needs offered & feel valued. There is so much talk about the hope for our future here on earth… the end to such things as war, poverty, hunger… yet we tolerate the status quo and blindly think we have no part in the future of our world. Each and every one of us can make a difference and it all starts with simply being respectful for those around us despite our differences.

    “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
    Leo F. Buscaglia


    I’m drawn to one word you used in your comment… “tolerate.”

    Isn’t it peculiar that we have a tendency to tolerate those things which push us further apart socially, and yet do not tolerate those things which can heal us socially?

    Thank you for the quote.

    – m –

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