Have you ever thought about what you need, what you have and is it enough or is it too much? I wonder about this all time. I work with non-profits as a volunteer and as an adviser primarily in the affordable housing sector. What you discover working in this arena is that the prism of needs range from helping someone who is sleeping under a bridge to paying the electric bill for a senior citizen so they can have light and heat.
The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world but we have brothers and sisters living in third world conditions some blocks away from my comfortable home and probably yours as well. The crime isn’t that this is happening. The crime is that we allow it to happen.
How do we solve this issue? There are no easy answers and honestly if I address all the potential solutions I would lose most of you in the fifth paragraph but I would like write about one and it involves each of us…opening our eyes.
There is a guy each of us pass every day at the busy intersection on the way to work. He is holding a cardboard sign that says “Help I am Homeless” or “Will work for food”. For many of us this gentleman has simply faded into the background. He is no more visible than the “Left turn only” sign we know is there but no longer notice. Never mind that he might not really be homeless, that he is simply a contract employee dropped off on this corner everyday by an organization with similar looking “characters”, or actors simply playing a part to get our spare change. The point here is, we don’t see him anymore. Maybe we did once, but for whatever reason we quit looking. He is still there though.
The community that I live in does a wonderful job of hiding the problem of homelessness and need from the average citizen. Daily rate motels are clustered together in the far away reaches of our city. Panhandlers are given rides out of downtown to the city’s edge. Improvised neighborhoods are off the beaten path, away from the shopping districts, office buildings and sadly grocery stores as well. If you want to find these neighborhoods I am talking about locate a free-standing Dollar store on a busy intersection and drive the streets behind it. You will discover the depressed areas of your community. Dollar Stores are predatory (which isn’t a very flattering term but I call a spade a spade). In their minds they are filling a need, a gap and I guess at the end of day processed meat and canned vegetables are better than nothing when you are hungry and poor.
As I sit in my comfortable home, filled with useless knickknacks, I have pantry full of food, a simple switch turns the lights off and on, water flows out of my faucets on demand and my bed is comfortable. My home is warm and safe. I have more than a dry roof and clean floor, I have more than enough, so much more than I need, most of us do. Is it too much to ask that others in our communities have the same advantages? Is providing safe and clean housing to those who desperately need it really that big of burden to those of us that have more than we need?
Solving the needs of others ALWAYS begins with recognizing the needs of others. If you can’t see it how can you help?
Open your eyes, they are standing right in front of you.