Folks, we all have “compassion for the homeless” and I’m glad everybody wishes we could do something.
I know I did a lot of yelling back then but I was really just tired of everyone deciding I really had lost my mind and they kept tossing me in the loony bin and shooting me up with Thorazine. That really pissed me off. That’s when I started hiding out in the Bell Tower. I didn’t want them to find me. That’s how I ended up homeless.
I met a lot of lovely people out there who had lost everything just like me. They tried to help me as best as they could. We all looked out for each other and tried to protect each other. I’m not sleeping out there any more but I will always be a member of their tribe and I still live among them. We are a very loyal bunch of people. We have to be. It’s the only way to survive out there.
Sure, a sandwich is nice but guess what. You really want to help? Just smile at one of us and see what happens when we think somebody isn’t going to tell us to move along.
Then if you have time, sit down with that woman you see holding out her hand for some change and let her talk to a decent person who isn’t scared all the time. You’ll be amazed if you happen to notice how relaxed and happy she is when you finally walk away, having learned about the company she built from the ground up and then lost everything when the bubble burst and she found herself tossed out to fend for herself. When you look back to smile at her one last time, you may notice that the “crazed” look is gone and she is smiling back at you as she waves and tells you she hopes you have a lovely day.
Or when you see that dirty young man, dejected and sitting on the sidewalk. Instead of tossing him a dollar when you rush past on your way home from work, avoiding his eyes, sit down beside him and ask him his name. You may find out that he is the last of an ancient family of Stone Masons. You may hear him tell you about his father and all of his brothers and grandfathers and you way watch him look up and you may see his eyes light up with pride as he waves his arms slowly in an arc and you may hear him quietly say every tall building you see him pointing at, even the one you just rushed out of; some member of his family had something to do with the construction of that monumental structure and that they had built them to last, just as family like his had done generation after generation; from before the Mideival Age and down through time, down to him, the lost one sitting there dirty on the sidewalk.
Believe me, your day WILL be lovely and if you’ve never lived out there, you will never know much you helped them. Just by spending a little time with a person who is not desperate, they just might get up the courage to go back to the intimidating beurocracies of Social Services and Departments of Housing and try again.
She may find a safe home for her children if they were taken away from her or go back and rebuild her career so she can get back to work and she can do what she may say she loves to do, helping everyone she can to stay safe and to be kind to each other.
He may find the strength to go back to the Union Halls and wait in the lines again and he will remember your kindness and he will smile and wave to you from another construction site as he gets back to the work of making his city beautiful again. When you pass by on your walk home from the office you may look in his eyes and feel love for him because you know who he is. And you might slow down and enjoy looking around you at the beauty of the city these people are trying to preserve, in whatever way they can.
If they manage to sum up enough of those few minutes spent with kind hearted, understanding people, they might stay out of the loony bins and the drunk tanks long enough to find someone who will realize that they really aren’t crazy, they’re just lost and they have given up and they are scared to death.
Then, perhaps, they can live again, without fear.
It worked for me.