10.02.2011

Unlikely Ways to Meet Friends and Comrades

It happens when I'm walking downtown, frequenting a ritzy coffee shop or buying an overpriced sandwich, that I see a homeless woman or man sleeping on the side of the street. In this moment my heart breaks in two.

So many missions and humanitarian efforts focus their attention overseas. This is valid, but the poverty before us should not be walked around and treated as an inconvenience on the side of the road.

My biggest pet peeve is the dismissal of all homeless as crazy, self-centered addicts who lack discipline. The difference between some of the addicts on the street and Lindsay Lohan is that not everyone can afford to blow millions at rehab centers in Malibu. Sure, some of the homeless have addictions, but who among us is not addicted to something? Why is the CEO who is greedy for money somehow praised as a go-getter who has his head on straight? Why are some addictions acceptable and others taboo?

It's been too long since I've ventured out to feed the homeless. And frankly, I haven't done it enough. But every time I've "braved the streets" to talk with those sitting on the side of the road, I've been more than pleasantly surprised. Tales of broken hearts and lives taking wrong turns are shared, and I find that these people are just like me, with the same everlasting hope for a better life. And soon I find I'm conversing with an old buddy who's also dying to take the next plane to Italy, who wishes on the same star as I do, who would kill for a gourmet cup of coffee. I've found a comrade who just happens to have less privilege than me.


I've got to get out there again. Too often I talk about doing grand and lofty things, then get caught up in my own sorrows or distractions and never do it. But as MLK Jr. says, "One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves."

Everyone reaches this conclusion sooner or later: we are connected in our humanness, no matter our station in life. Our tears, our laughter, our sadness, our pain are all common. We are one. When we do not help one another we engage in the deadening of society, the wilting of our hearts, the shutting down of our souls.

Awake, children. Help your brother. Help your sister. Help your friend.

5 comments:

  1. A touching post that really incites reflection! I have participated in community service trips to Nepal and Cambodia but have never done one in my hometown... :-(

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  2. You bring up a lot of key points in this post. A lot to think about. Love the quote by MLK.

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  3. It's so true. I wonder if it is a bit too close to home to help those who we see every day in our 'hoods? I am not sure.

    Lovely post though.

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  4. This gave me goosebumps, thanks for writing it.. I think one of the things that break my heart a lot is the dismissal of someone different, poorer, older, etc

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  5. Yeah, plus a lot of them are addicts because they have mental illnesses but have just been left on the streets where naturally things don't turn out well for them. I've never soup-kitchened, but took part in a homeless count one year. Turns out not everyone sleeping in an alley at 7 am is homeless, embarrassing. ; D

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