Over the past few days I’ve noticed that many web sites having been using splashes of green on their pages. Except for the four leafed clovers, it could have been a prelude to St. Patrick’s Day. But, that isn’t why all of the green. The reason is that today is officially Earth Day.
In my opinion everyday should be Earth Day. We should be in a constant state of awareness of just how much we need to be environmentally kind.
It has always seemed strange to me that we human beings generally believe that the Earth belongs to us. But, if you stop to think about it using just plain old common sense, we belong to the Earth.
Let’s face it, She was here long before any of us were born and, unless something untoward happens, she will be here long after we’re gone. And if something catastrophic was to happen and Mother Earth was no more, we also would be no more. All the more reason to treat Her with respect.
One way of treating Her with respect is for us to stop treating Her like a gigantic trash receptacle – which means that we should be doing more to recycle those items that can be recycled.
There is one segment of this nation’s citizens who engage in a tremendous amount of recycling: the homeless.
I have yet to come across any statistical numbers that indicate just how many homeless recycle, but there are quite a number of them who do. It isn’t usual to see them digging through trash cans and dumpsters for aluminum cans, plastic bottles and various other items that we deem to be garbage.
Were it not for the homeless, all of these things would end up at the local landfills. That may not seem like a big deal to many, but many of these items do not biodegrade. This means that some items that we toss out would be sitting in the Earth almost forever – or at the very least through out our lifetimes.
Admittedly, the homeless are probably not recycling with thoughts of being environmentally friendly. The truth is that those homeless who do recycle are doing it because it’s their way of putting a few bucks in their pockets. But, you have to give them this credit: it’s either that or stealing. And if, for whatever reasons, they aren’t able to find employment, then why not let them recycle?
As for the reasons they want the money, well… it’s none of my business what they do with their money. The way I see it, if they’ve been out there for hours and hours at a time collecting recyclables and then lugging all of those things to the reclamation centers, then they are entitled to spend the money anyway they want without any criticism from me or anyone else.
It occurs to me that there is another type of recycling that we, as a society, ought to be engaged in: helping the homeless become productive members of our communities.
It wouldn’t do us a bit of good if we were able to restore Mother Earth to a perfectly pristine condition if we continue to neglect those of our fellow citizens who so desperately need our intervention. That would be akin to washing the outside of a dish while leaving the inside dirty and unwashed.
While I think it’s good that we are trying to reduce the levels of environmental pollution, I think that it’s equally important – if not more so – that we also rid ourselves of our personal moral pollutions.
If we were able to "recycle" the way we view the homeless; our attitudes toward them, perhaps we’d be able to see the humanity beneath their often times rumpled exteriors. And, if we were able to see their humanity, maybe we’d be more apt to extend a hand of compassion and kindness. In doing that, we’d be giving the homeless more than just sustenance. We’d be giving them the gift of potentially reclaiming their lives.
For too long, we have dismissed them as being unworthy of our help. We have allowed our elected officials to adopt and enact despicable laws and ordinances that penalize and criminalize the homeless. We have become guilty of attempting to "sweep them under the rug" so that they are hidden from view. We avert our eyes or completely ignore them if we happen to spot them trudging along under the weight of their backpacks. We’ve become proficient at making excuses for "why" we can’t help.
Just as we should make it a habit of "thinking green" to protect and cherish our environment, we should also make it a habit of viewing the homeless for what they are: people.
There, but for the grace of God, go I
should be seared in our hearts as a reminder that it very well could be one of us who finds themselves homeless next.