Not that I would want difficult circumstances imposed upon anyone, but the many extreme and "rare" events that now make up our new "norm" possess the ability to mold man into a more compassionate and caring race of beings and better prepare him to meet the challenges of tomorrow.....if he cares to ponder such things.
As I sat watching the people of Atlanta and the problems that occurred with their recent snow fall, I couldn't help but compare their situation to that of the homeless. Suddenly many motorists found themselves stranded in their cars for the night, without food, water and amenities. No doubt many lacked seriously needed medications. This was a frightening turn of events, but even so groups and individuals came forth delivering whatever help they could. Those affected were not alone. They were not shunned. Most appeared to have some kind of shelter. Unbidden, strangers emerged on their own and their actions spoke loud and clear, "Don't worry we'll help you!" "We don't know you but we care." "No one should have to endure this and we are going to do what we can to help." No one was judged for ending up in this situation. No one looked away, avoiding their eyes. Individuals and government agents went out of their way to help them, look for them, and to anticipate problems they might have ahead of time and to correct problems that had already occurred. As annoyed, hungry, thirsty, cold, afraid and everything else that these people were, for the greater part their misery was fairly short lived and life soon returned to normal.
So why is it that when there isn't a "sudden" crisis and people are found stranded in their cars, hungry and cold, that we look away? Why are we compelled to judge and condemn them for the complex circumstances of their lives, of which we know nothing? What makes you think that if what happened in Atlanta suddenly became your way of life that you would do any better? How would your behavior deteriorate? How annoyed would you be with your government and the apathy of others? How irritable/depressed/broken would you be....because when you are homeless there pretty much isn't anybody comin', there's little if any relief and for all your sufferin' you are made to feel ashamed of circumstances beyond your control.
Even in the difficulty of Atlanta, those who suffered (and I do not wish to belittle what they experienced) went through so much less than the homeless do. Many homeless have little or no shelter. If someone comes across them as they sleep they are likely to be beaten or robbed. Government agents may be of little or no help or may compound the problem by telling them to leave or having them arrested. These people ran out of their meds a long time ago along with the doctors that prescribed them. For the general public in Atlanta there was hope. Not so for the homeless. Most of them gave up on that idea long ago.
For some strange reason we differentiate between the helplessness connected with sudden events and the helplessness of accumulated events. This differentiation comes from assumption and judgement, yet no one applies the same criteria to those who got stuck in Atlanta. Before anything happened I heard that this might be the worst storm yet. We all know that the new norm is to expect the unexpected. Did people stay home? Take special precautions? Take their meds with them? Take extra food? Tire chains? Salt? Blankets? Actually it seems as if they behaved just like ordinary people going along with their ordinary lives not expecting anything to change. And it is the same way with the homeless. For some it came about slowly, for some more quickly. I've heard many say, "I never expected that I'd become homeless." I mean, really, who prepares for that? For some you are looking at people who never really started out with an equal opportunity, for others, just sheer circumstances overwhelmed them. In this regard they are exactly like the majority of Americans: Either they fail to fully recognize the implications of what is happening to them or it is beyond their control or comprehension as to how to deal with what is occurring. Mostly people don't want to know and deal with problems. I find that it is very hard to find people who want to briefly discuss and address anything that is not working. We are so programmed into "shut up, smile and everything is fine" mode that it's no wonder that we are self destructing and taking the planet with us. When we fail to take responsibility for our own issues we become particularly annoyed by anyone who would remind us that there's a problem. Enter the homeless and unemployed and we are just another problem that people would rather forget. It's much easier to make assumptions/judgements and seek scapegoats. This is America and I do believe that we have the power and ability to change anything.....if we really want to. Yes there are problems, but if we have opted out and given away our power and have not properly taken it back then we are the ones to blame. Being outraged and pointing fingers is just more of the same. On the day that we recognize that we, each and everyone of us, is responsible and ready to make the sacrifices necessary to fix this mess, then it will be fixed. Until then, like those others who continue to perpetuate the pointed finger of anger, divisiveness will rule and we shall go nowhere.
Why in a county that has so much should anyone ever have to be stranded? If it's not acceptable for some, then it is not acceptable for anybody. It really is that simple.
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
copyright Linda Matthews 1/30/2014