Believe it or not, part 1 was about the “perfect” people. Those who sense that homelessness will ever enter into their lives because they have everything set up just right. And as I mentioned, I have known quite a few homeless people who were brought up with that silver spoon and have become homeless. I have also known some really successful people who had confided that their child/grandchild is holding their life together by slender thread and the day the parent and benefactor passes on will be the start of a very uncertain future for that child/grandchild.
I am mentioning this only to illustrate that every person can be touched by homelessness. It doesn’t just happen to losers. No matter how perfect you think your life is, it is basically a lie if you believe that you are perfect. I don’t think we can be perfect in this world. But we can make it better by helping others.
I also have some ideas about the differences between the “good” and the “bad” people of this world. I was working in an office at a university a few years ago, and every so often one of the professors would come out and talk to me. He was deeply into self-flagellation and would bemoan his faults and mention his prozac use. Patiently I would listen and try not to add anything to his self-condemnation, but one day he was insistent. His fundamental question was “Don’t you agree that I am a bad person?” I looked up at him and told him that “There is enough bad in the good and good in the bad to make everyone pretty much equal.” I still believe that. Sure some people commit horrible crimes and I do believe that some people are just plain bad to the bone. But, that is a minority.
Most people, as bad as they seem, will risk their life to save a friend, go out of their way to help someone from ending up on the downward path that they have found themselves on, or help someone who asks for their help. Other people spend time polishing their image, but underneath it all is a shallow person that would take the last dime from a widow or orphan.
You never can tell on the surface, that is why I consider all people more or less equal and am an activist for changing the mind-set that people have about the homeless. But unfortunately, the people who believe that they are perfect and that everything they have is through their own efforts, are the hardest people to convince that homelessness can happen to anyone.
But I will tell you that is can happen to anyone. I have seen people from all walks of life in homeless shelters and on the streets. A special education teacher who lived in a tent. PhD’s expounding about physics at the dinner table in the shelter. A former singer that traveled the world and is now wearing bright colors panhandling on the street. Women so innocent, you wonder: Why are you here in a shelter? Men so fragile, that you wonder how they can still live each day with such pain.
As with racism and any other kind of prejudice, you err in judging the whole of a group by just a narrow segment with glaring faults. If people continue abusing people because of their homelessness; then, some very good people will be lost. And the people who are the abusers (the perfect people who have all their ducks in a row) will be as guilty of the pain of those people as the Nazis were in WWII. (BTW, the Nazi thought they were perfect, too.)