Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why We Should Care About What Happens To The Homeless When They Die

I posted this to my Facebook in response to a recent story "What Happens To The Homeless When They Die?"  I had several people contact me privately and tell me they too knew what it was like, and ask that I share this as much as possible.  My blog seems like a great place to start.

This article upset me because it reminds me how fast we forget those left behind.  We have homeless people in every city of modest size.  People judge them, spit on them, beat them, rob them, or never see them at all.  The fact that people don't know what happens to the homeless when they die shows how removed we are from their circumstances.

Without further ado, here is my Facebook post.  To read the original article that set me off, you can find it here.

When I was 18, I lived in my car for a good while because I had nowhere to go. It was cold and it was awful. Nights last forever when you aren't warm enough, and days are endless when your belly is empty. This experience forever changed my view of the world and the people in it. It's also why I take this story and others like it so seriously. Compared to some, I was still living a life of luxury because I had a car for shelter. But oh, what I would have given for some warm, dry socks.

I am sad beyond words that these people are being thrown away simply because they have nothing. Literally, without any caring or consideration, they are bagged up and disposed of with the same measures used for roadkill. Tell me this is a nation founded on Christian principles, and I'll tell you that you're full of shit. Otherwise, we wouldn't have megachurches with shopping mall lobbies and top notch recording equipment while people freeze to death or suffer from chronic malnutrition.

But the homeless were discarded long before they died. And that's the real problem, isn't it?

We see the homeless as they are right now, dirty, desperate, bitter or lost. We do them the injustice of not knowing or forgetting that they are spelling bee champions, math whizzes, artists, dancers, friends, musicians. They could be mentally ill, they may have suffered a tragedy, they might just not know how to function in this world or some (like I was at the time) could be one break away from making it. They may have kids, they most certainly had parents. Someone might be praying for them right now, hoping that the world is being kind to them. Their relatives may never know that their loved one was found, scraped up, cremated, dumped, perhaps logged into a registry IF anyone ever knew their name. Or they find out that's exactly what happened, and are left to mourn in a field without markers.

So yeah, let's do something about that. Support a shelter, just remind yourselves that there but for the grace of God go we all, give however you see fit or are able. But do something, goddammit. There's a million ways to make a difference in a person's world, and only a few of them require money. A cup of coffee, an understanding ear, or just not being condescending to the less fortunate is a great place to start.

I know what it's like to have life hit you so hard you can't get up right away. I also know the power of a single act of kindness, especially when it comes at just the right moment. I have witnessed how much a good deed is amplified when done in the spirit of goodness. I have spent years hoping that if I ever get a chance, I can be that person for someone else. Twenty years ago, I was one good deed and a stroke of luck from disappearing off the face of the world forever. May I never be too proud or too spoiled to forget what that was like.

So, my beloved friends and readers: if you ever wondered why I delight in showering my friends and family with food just because I can, why I cringe when the wrong person touches me, why I fear being stranded in the cold more than just about anything, why I worry about the animals in the winter, or why I hoard socks like the world is going to run out of them... well, now you know.