It’s the last day of 2008 – and I’m willing to bet that, despite a tight economic situation for many Americans, there is still going to be quite a bit of celebrating going on. When "the" moment arrives, there will be smiles; laughter; cheers; handshakes; pats on the back; well wishes; hugs and kisses; and perhaps a verse or two of Auld Lang Syne.
For me personally, this holiday season has been one of mixed emotions.
There is a part of me which is looking forward with hope and anticipation to the coming year. There is another part of me, however, which knows that so many Americans will "usher in the New Year" with little hope that it will bring about a brighter future. For them, come tomorrow morning, it will be just another day. And, it saddens me that despite the current economic situation, we are still the most prosperous nation on the face of the planet, yet there are so many who are being left out in the cold – literally.
They are America’s homeless.
Not all of them are bums or derelicts. Not all of them are drunks or drug addicts. Not all of them are lazy and unwilling to work. And, not all of them are to blame for their homelessness. Quite as a matter of fact, the majority of this nation’s homeless do not fit the stereotype.
For example –
- Over one third of America’s homeless are children – half of them are under the age of 6
- Single mothers with dependant children make up the largest segment of homeless families
- Roughly one in four homeless are Veterans
- About one in four homeless have a full time job
- 6 percent of America’s homeless are aged between the ages of 55 and 64
- Only about 37 percent of the homeless have an addiction disorder
- Lack of affordable housing and eroding employment opportunities are the primary cause of homelessness
I’ve heard of this current era being referred to as the "information age." Yet, there are very few who actually take the time to avail themselves of the ease of information gathering to determine whether their perceptions of homelessness are indeed accurate. Consequently, so many continue to maintain a negative attitude toward those in their community who are homeless.
Even elected leaders seem to seldom make the time to genuinely investigate the issue with an eye at finding humanitarian solutions. Rather, they seem to be content with "quick fixes" – which generally take the form of laws and ordinances aimed at making the lives of their local homeless all the more difficult. The irony is that the majority of their community’s homeless were at one time – and in some cases still – a part of their constituency.
The chorus of Auld Lang Syne is:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
I like the idea of the "cup of kindness."
As this year comes to a close, perhaps as a New Year’s resolution, this nation should consider offering our homeless a "cup of kindness" by remembering that they are people. And – as people – they are worthy to be treated with human dignity.
From there, it’s a simple step to offering a helping hand of compassion.