As I pondered the suffering of others, I realized just how much we all have in common. It is something most people do not understand, and many more do not wish to accept.
One day, when I was walking down the street in San Francisco decades ago, I remember seeing a beggar along the way. I was young and didn’t understand the horrors of war. Nor did I care to. I was too busy on a career path in the world of computer technology to care.
But the image of him haunted me. And it still does.
The lower half of his body was shorn away, leaving him to scoot around on a square wooden board, holding a cup in his hand. He was desperate for someone to talk to, even more than the money food or drink would buy him.
Years later, I saw an old man in a wheel chair being pushed into place in a local gas station. After seeing him a few times, this time I stopped and spoke to him. He was a vet, thrown out on the streets, begging for the money to keep a roof over his head. His income as a soldier was far less than the world’s standards. And no one seemed to care.
The gas station shunner him and forced him to leave. We saw him only once more in the far edges of a parking lot, let iin the h ot sun, to beg for his sustenance.
I never saw either of these men again. And their lives haunt me.
What has happened to them? I will never know.
What happened to humanity?
Moreover, what has happened to our humanity that we shirk our concern for those less fortunate? We cannot take them into our homes like Mother Theresa, but the society that says they care about the unfortunate certainly does not show it by our actions.
Today, all of humanity is on full display. Homelessness has exploded as the cost of living goes beyond the standards of what was once a middle class. Those with mental health needs are tossed aside like disgusting, used dolls.
It is nothing new. This has happened in every society. At every level. And throughout history.
But I cannot fully wrap my head around it…
How can we so blatantly disregard another human being as we do?
Do not misunderstand me. There are those who fully take advantage of the generosity of others. Those without scruples who have learned to work the system.
I see on our city streets those who stand on the corners with handwritten signs, dressed in total contrast to their alleged needs. And only a few blocks from places that help those in need.
The same people. The same signs. And the same needs.
Scammers – the scum of the earth…
Years ago, my sister told me of a newsletter that was distributed to the homeless in another state. It had hints on how to draw the sympathy of outsiders to give them money. One was to get a dog. People like dogs. And if they saw a homeless person with a dog, it would pull at the heartstrings of the would-be contributors.
Another was the story of a friend of my supervisor. The man drove his jaguar, parking 10 blocks from his target location. Then, dressed in rags, he’d hold out a can to passerbys. He earned more money that he would have if he worked a legitimate job. And never had to pay a dime in taxes.
These are people who are looking out for themselves and their own gain. They don’t care how it hurts those who truly are in need. And they won’t share either in their experiences or in compassion by giving what they stole from them.
These fakers are the scum of the earth.
When my family and I had no money, no food, and lost our home, we lived in an apartment in the middle of a drug-infested, child pornography area. It was all I could afford after my husband died.
I was led to many places to get food. Many of the experiences were no less than humiliating. Especially from a supposed Christian outreach who forced us to listen to an hour long sermon to get a box of rotting vegetables.
These are the unscrupulous. Those who take full advantage of the those who are truly in need. Those who have no means of supplying themselves with the basic necessities for life.
It will take prudence to determine those who are in real need from those who are scammers.
Seeing the world differently…
But if we choose to see those around us with different eyes, we can share in their suffering. And we can work to mitigate it.
When we truly live our Faith values, it will show in a display of outpouring – in real love. We cannot help everyone, but just a smile and recognition of their existence goes a long way. The gesture alone to a lonely person’s life can sometimes far outweigh the pain those on the fringes feel.
Take time to see those around you. Embrace them with love by recognizing them. Even if you have no ability to provide them food or shelter.
Then engage them. However you are able. A quick conversation. A glance in their direction – not out of curiosity, but out of acknowledgment of their existence.
Even if it just a sincere smile of appreciation that they are alive.