|Tuesday, 05 October 2004 00:00|
..for the grace of God go I. That was an expression I often heard from my mother while growing up whenever we saw someone who was disabled or destitute and it is an expression I use still. Here in Vancouver, as in any town or city across this continent, we encounter homeless people all over the place. There was a time in my life that I would walk by them, looking through them as if they didn't exist and it is not something I am proud of. Now, when I can I will give them something; money, food, or just a simple eye to eye "Sorry, not today", just anything to let them know they are not being ignored. It breaks my heart to see these people in such a desperate state, each with a different life story, needing some help or at least some acknowledgement or kindness from a stranger.
It's easy to ignore them and even blame them for their plight when in reality these homeless people didn't grow up envisioning that having no safe place to live would be in their future. Some of them are mentally ill, some are drug or alcohol addicts (an illness in itself) and some find life on the streets safer than what they endured at "home". As we live in our safe homes and sleep in our cozy beds, there are thousands of souls out there living on a piece of cardboard or under some newspaper in a deserted yard or ditch. They are all human beings with feelings and are someone's child, brother or sister and none of them asked for their sad lives.
I have a homeless friend in Orillia. He is a victim of severe alcoholism brought on by a series of unfortunate events. For him it was easier to drown his pain in alcohol than face it head on and as a result he has become addicted to it. He sleeps in Couchiching Park, behind buildings; in alleys and occasionally on some kind friends couch. He always smiles at me in recognition no matter what his condition is and his eyes are as blue today as they were 25 years ago before this became his life. When I first met him, he didn't say, "someday I want to be a homeless alcoholic", he was kind, fun loving and a productive member of society. This is when the expression, "Shit happens", seems appropriate.
I don't know what the solution to homelessness is in our society but I do know that homeless people deserve to be treated with as much compassion as we can give them. They are all human beings and after all, remember one thing... there but for the grace of God, go I.