An Early Christmas Season?

Posted: November 19, 2008 in Acceptance, Compassion, Homelessness, Morality

Is it me or has anyone else noticed that the Christmas season seems to have started a bit earlier this year than last? Some television stations have already begun airing Christmas movies. Some department stores are already having holiday sales. There are even a few places that have already begun phasing in Christmas decorations.  

Although I enjoy the Christmas season, I’m not sure if I’m entirely comfortable having it being "promoted" so soon. After all, Thanksgiving hasn’t even come and gone yet.

Another thing which is also occurring is that I’m beginning to have emails show up in the blog’s inbox from folks making inquiries about how and where they can volunteer their time to help the homeless – something which I thoroughly approve of. So, part of my reply has been to re-direct those folks to the blog’s Resource page, which has most of the homeless support services organizations I could think of from in and around SLO listed.

I like the idea that folks want to volunteer their time, especially since I’m of the opinion that community involvement is essential for effectively addressing homelessness – not only in San Luis Obispo, but everywhere else around the nation as well. The only real problem I have with it all, however, is that it’s usually only around this time of year when folks think of volunteering. And, I know that it has to do with it being a season of goodwill toward one another.

Please keep in my mind that I’m not criticizing. However, it would be nice if this feeling of goodwill were just as prevalent during the rest of the year as well since the homeless still also need some compassion shown to them during the other parts of the year. Still, fifty percent of something is always better than one hundred percent of nothing. So, even the little which folks volunteer during this season is better than not have anyone volunteer at all.

I realize that part of the lack of folks volunteering throughout the rest of the year, has to do with folks having busy lives. There is also the fact that most folks are having a rough go of it themselves. Some may ever be right on the verge of becoming homeless. And that is all the more reason for community involvement.

Perhaps the reason more folks don’t help is because they believe the government – at both the federal and local levels – is already doing everything possible to address homelessness.

It’s not unusual for folks who just happen to cross paths with a homeless person to make mention of their community’s local homeless shelter. Unfortunately, homeless support services agencies aren’t doing much more than offering a meal – and when space permits, a bed to sleep in. Sadly though, the homeless outnumber available shelter beds by a ratio of about four to one.

While it’s a good thing that there are homeless shelters which provide the homeless with the most basic of services, the reality is that providing only enough to keep bone and sinew together is not a direct path to becoming a "non-homeless" member of the local community. And since most homeless support services organizations do not offer the homeless the types of assistance and programs required to get these folks of the streets and into stable housing, homelessness continues to remain what may seem to be an unbeatable problem.

I personally do not believe that all homelessness can be completely alleviated and brought down to absolute zero. On the other hand, I do tend to believe that significant numbers of homeless can be assisted in returning into the mainstream of society. But it will take effort on the part of "regular" members of the community.

Before we can do that however, we must be willing to cast aside our stereotypical views of the homeless. We have to come to terms with the reality that not all homeless are drunkards, drug addicts, derelicts or lazy. We must be willing to concede the reality that most of the homeless are folks just like the rest of us; folks who need a bit of help; folks who need to be shown "goodwill" and compassion everyday – and not just during this time of the year.

My belief is that if we were more willing to view the homeless as being worthy of our help, we could make amazing headway at significantly reducing the numbers of homeless on our nation’s streets.

It’s probably unrealistic for me to think it will ever happen; but, what if all of us were somehow able to carry the Christmas spirit around within us all year? What if we were able to keep in mind that "goodwill toward all" is something we should be striving for each day?

I’m willing to bet that there wouldn’t be as many homeless on our nation’s streets because our sense of "goodwill toward all" and our compassion wouldn’t allow it.

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