Our culture is so incredibly
hyper-focused on that which is easily seen... the perfect body, the
latest fashions, having the coolest gadgetry. Even if we have none of
these things, there are certain societal norms that we are expected to
conform to and those who don't are considered undesirable, lesser
see a panhandler in a wheelchair on the street while you were out doing a little
shopping on your lunch break? He's probably a con-artist who's going to wheel around a corner, stand up and climb into his Lincoln Continental at the end of the day!
Did you see a homeless person with missing teeth, bad body odor,
smelling of urine on the CTA? Disgusting, right? Why don't these people get "real"
jobs and quit bothering the rest of us?
Let's be honest. Most of us
have had one or more of these thoughts run through our minds. These
street people aren't "normal." They're a nuisance, possibly crazy, and probably on drugs -
if we're not careful, they might even mug us! If we give them anything - well, why bother? They're just going to use it to buy booze anyway! They make us feel uncomfortable.
We recoil in disgust, make jokes, or, at the very least, step out of
the potential offender's path, hoping they won't single us out and make
us feel even more uncomfortable.
truth is, the majority of people living on the streets are not going
home to some fancy high rise in the Gold Coast, Wicker Park, or Old Town at the end of the day.
If they do have a home at all, it's much more likely to be a studio apartment with no stove located in a
filthy, seedy part of town.
odor? Have you offered to give a homeless person a small care
package that includes deodorant or toothpaste? Did you know that there
virtually is no place for these people to go to the bathroom during the
day? They're run out of restaurants, convenience stores, hotel
lobbies, the train station... where exactly are they supposed to go?
They try to hold it as long as they can until they can find a bathroom.
They don't always make it. The end result is dehumanizing. They're
devastated but to cry in front of you, in front of me... in front of
anyone is the ultimate humiliation. Instead they shuffle along through
the night, hoping they won't be harassed by drunk partiers out for the
weekend, hoping to stay warm in sub-zero temperatures, trying
desperately to stay sane in their present situation that, let's face
it, is truly crazy-making.
want to introduce you to some friends of mine. They're just a few of the thousands of people living on the streets of Chicago, Illinois every day. You need to know them. They're
people. They matter to someone. They most certainly matter to me.
And I hope, once you've met them, they'll matter to you, too.