This post is or anyone who wants to hear how I think. More raw emotion, but observations nonetheless. Chicago’s homelessness problem has me severely upset. There isn’t a good reason for it. I’m not a socialist in the tradition sense, but I do not want anyone ending up on the streets. It’s not something people aspire to as children unless they knew someone very kind who happened to be homeless. In that case, it is the aspiration for kindness and not the condition of being without stable food or shelter that inspired them. I have two friends who survived that way and they only bring up the parts that are applicable to a given situation. It’s something looked down upon in American society, and something seen as more of a “problem” than as people who need help. This makes me sad. My friends are not problems. They are real people. Their circumstances were also real, and I did not know them at the time when they were living on the street, or else I would have done something.
Today a man on crutches who obviously needed more help than I could do anything about asked for cash. Normally, I never have means to give. It’s just part of life- being a student and trying to stay out of excessive debt while supporting yourself. Today was different. I gave him what I could. How he used it was not my business although I will admit that fleeting thoughts of potential drug use floated through my mind. All the same, though, any person is worth helping and not ignoring.
When I was a kid, my Mom had a TV show recorded called “V” on the VHS label. After an IMDB.com search for Cliff de Young, who I think may have been in the show, I think that the actual show was something else all together. I checked over his filmography, and nothing matched quite right, but here is what I remember from it. A self-absorbed person committed a crime or something that was caught on these floating cameras and then he had a mark on his forehead where they were shunned for a year. During this time, they could walk about in society anywhere, but no one acknowledged their presence. They couldn’t work, but their meals were taken care of, etc. They were just alone, honestly and thoroughly. After this year, whatever the mark thing was was taken off and they were again back in society. The one guy that this happened to learned his lesson well. The next time that someone came by him bearing this same mark, he acknowledged their presence even though he was supposed to be part of the shunning group. He probably would have that same mark again for another year, but the point was well-done. My Mom always did her best to help when she felt like she should. Part of my life ambitions concerned modeling my life after the best version of my parents possible. They leave a big wake, and it is an incredibly hard road.
Life feels like the homelessness issue is simply as “issue” and does not have any faces associated with it. I see a lot of the same people day in and out and there seems to be nothing that can be done for them. I wish that I knew where all of the local city shelters were and didn’t worry about transporting a random person there. As it is, that’s not the case. I feel guilty for not being able to do anything so often.
All the same, this was a chance to do well. I’ve lived in this city for seven months and I donate to my Church and want to live a life that includes values like charity whenever possible. This was the first time in seven months where I was able to do anything although I see homeless people every day and it makes me want to cry regularly. I was praying for a warmer winter. I’m not ready for a “full-blown” Chicago winter. I am not prepared this winter, and feel like it’s been a huge blessing that the severity lessened up to this point. March is another issue, but I will take it and be grateful for what is the current experience.
So all that happened was giving a homeless guy pocket change. I try to have some quarters around for the El and for parking in emergencies, and so I gave him what I could. It made me consider society, life, the universe, and everything, thank you Doug Adams.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Doug Adams
That said, it also made me wish that I could do more with less effort. I’m not currently capable of taking the time, means, and other resources necessary to honestly pick someone up from life on the street and help them live a different life. And no, no one directly asks me to do that. Homeless shelters can’t do enough, and my guess is that by the time someone gets to that point, they don’t typically have anywhere else to go or the situation is otherwise unbearable. I did not stop to ask.
Usually I feel better when I do something like this. I may be too naïve to know when someone is high or not, but he looked like he hadn’t slept in three days. I should know how that looks. My sleep schedule is not in line with regular society due to stress and learning new things in a semi-comatose state. Welcome to grad school sans caffeine.
I probably and likely sound like a ninny writing this, but someone has to do something. I cannot compare where I last lived to here and be fair to either side. That place was not heaven. This place is not bad. Each has its good points and I wish not to make accusatory comments on either. the cultures are simply different. My friends there were genuine and lovely. Here, it is the same case and I am highly lucky and/or blessed in that regard. Having good friends who care is actually pretty rare and a quest for the faint of heart not to try.
Culturally, there, I did not see homelessness as much. I did not ignore it, but when it was there, it was so obvious that it was more shocking than the daily thing it is here. There, homeless shelters are rare. It probably is not in the municipal budget to fund such shelters, and that is heinous. Here, homelessness is on every street corner coming off every off-ramp and at most major intersections and it is increasing. I remember more people there who professed to being good and who didn’t care a lick and more people here who have enough problems to need a decent therapist, and yet they care and do the most that they are possible of doing on any given day. You’ll get the same in reverse depending upon the person in any place.
I already mentioned Church and yes, I am religious. I like people who are genuine no matter what their race, creed, culture, gender preferences, and simply are themselves and try being good people. People who are real, admit that life is hard, and still attempt positivity despite or because of how much the world drags on them. The idea being that God looks on the heart whereas mankind tends to see shiny metals and equates that with nobility. For anyone keeping up, reference for that last sentence comes from Samuel about the Lord looking on a person’s heart. I like the American ideal where a person can become what they wish with hard work, effort, and talent. All of that said, those things need backup or resources to work.
There is no good answer to this other than the “love one another” phrase that is easy to quote and harder to put into daily life practice consistently and-or constantly. Either the government tries to solve the problem with inefficient bureaucracy and way too many forms, or someone needs to step up and really honestly help with meals and job training to help people get their lives back together and help lessen problematic issues instead of creating new ones. It’s feeding a man a fish versus teaching him how, but in the meantime making sure that there are some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the side to help him out while he is learning a new concept.
There’s my soapbox. I want the real world to be better than it’s been. For my piece of it, I wish to help in some way. If by no more than giving a guy some quarters to try to make sure that he could get a dollar menu item, it is not the best that I could do, but it was better than nothing. Seven months of wishing that I could do better and I wish that I could do more.
From an aching heart,