I saw this picture a few weeks ago and it has been haunting my thoughts:
I mean, really. Doesn't that say so much? Fashionistas and a homeless person, completely oblivious of the other. I can't take my eyes off of it.
It kills me that I can relate so much more to the brightly dressed and seemingly self-concerned threesome. It's probably part of their job, for all we know. I don't want nor mean to condemn them. There is a crowd behind them that presumably will also walk right past this homeless man. And crowds and crowds after them. Just as there are countless other homeless people sitting on other steps throughout this city and thousands of other cities.
My daily concerns are not of where to rest my head, how to eat, or how to keep myself and my children warm. My daily concerns are usually centered around how I can better manage my finances and bills, how to keep my kids healthy and growing, what I can do to grow my business and talents, how to be more creative, healthier, kinder, etc. It is not and never has been how to keep my family from dying of starvation or cold. My concern is not and never has been about sacrificing my or my children's safety in order to eat. In fact, I am so ridiculously comfortable that when there are ants in my home, I call an exterminator and demand he come out and rectify the small infestation as soon as possible. Can you imagine how laughable that would seem to someone who is homeless?
We live such cushy lives. We get down on ourselves for not being as thin, popular, well-dressed, creative as the Instagrammers we follow. Don't you ever want to shake your own body and say, "Snap out of it"?
I sure do.
One of my favorite books in the world is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I think of this quote often:
“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart!"I recently heard a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland where he hit the most recent strings of my heart when he said, "I openly acknowledge the unearned, undeserved, unending blessings in my life, both temporal and spiritual. Like you, I have had to worry about finances on occasion, but I have never been poor, nor do I even know how the poor feel."
I have considered myself "poor" on occasion and maybe even used that term to describe my situation, but I realize it was used in an unsympathetic exaggerative manner. I do not know how the poor feel, but I do know that for whatever reason, I have never been destitute.
I also recently saw an article (see HERE) about a mother who claims that government benefits have made her obese and without more financial aid, she will not be able to lose weight or join a gym. I get that. I am actually sympathetic to the lower class and that government money programs DO favor junk food over healthy options. Heaven knows I spend more money when we are trying to eat healthy.
BUT... it is articles like this that fail to elicit sympathy and instead intensify opinions further into political dogma. Readers look at this woman with her intensely dyed hair, piercings and tattoos and respond with, "Don't spend the money on your hair and tatts, and get some walking shoes." or "Buy some lettuce!" (actual comments I read) And I admit that part of me agrees.
Those who think government assistance is a "handout" increase their resolve after seeing public stunts like this.
It remains, though, that there are many who don't have a cupboard and home like this mother where they can store their junk food... or any food, for that matter. There are hundreds in my own city, sleeping the day in a park or on the lawn of the downtown library, then heading back to the shelter for dinner and maybe the night. I don't know how or why they are there. All I know is that I am not.
And, believe me, I write this with tears running down my face. I do not know why I am not. I do not know what and how I am here in my comfortable home with four safe kids and a really great husband who has an income that affords us food whenever we want it and clean water coming out of multiple spouts whenever we turn a lever.
"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another," said Charles Dickens.
"No one has ever become poor by giving," said Anne Frank.
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself," said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
I am no longer content to say that my only concern is to raise my children and then I can devote myself to humanitarian means. There is no then. Now is then. My children need it as much as I do. I cannot continue to see myself in the women in the above picture.
It's time. Who's with me?