My interactions with the world around me over the past 5 days move me to write this post.
Sunday: My pastor Carl Lentz gave an inspiring sermon after returning from Ethiopia. He spent the last week working with Scott Harrison to provide villages with clean water. The pictures made my eyes sweat.
Tuesday: Someone asked me how lucky I thought I was. A 12 on the 10 point scale sounds about right.
Wednesday: I met a guy named Lavar who’d been living drug-free on the street for 6 years due to a mental illness. He showed me how he can’t fully close his hands because of the many cold nights he’s spent on rugged pavement.
A short while ago I wrote a post about talking to the homeless. The post exposes certain ways I choose to give my time, attention, and sometimes financial resources to people who have fallen on hard times. I’ll be the first one to tell you that selfish motivations partially inspire me to do these things. It makes me feel good when someone thanks you for giving them a hug because “no one has done that in years.”
But the primary motivator for my actions stems from the from the harsh realization that the difference between me and people like Lavar was completely out of my control. I won the sperm lottery. Him not so much.
I think its ironic when people find excuses not to show humanity to the homeless.
“I don’t give money because they’re just going to spend it on alcohol or drugs.”
“Why don’t they just go find a job.”
“They wouldn’t be on the streets if they made better decisions.”
Are we that ignorant to believe that our own merit is why the shoe is not on the other foot? We are a product of our environments which usually stem from the hands life dealt us. It’s easy to be a good decision maker when you have a supportive family, healthy mind, and quality education. It’s not when you’ve been in and out of foster homes for your entire life because of your challenging mental illness. In many cases, these people have not fallen on hard times. But rather the majority of their existence has been characterized by hard times.
I do what I do because I’m indignant about the way the homeless people are perceived and treated. I’m just not okay with it. It’s why I sacrifice an extra two minutes in my inbox to talk to them. It’s why I give them money when I know I’m probably getting taken advantage of. As Carl says, I’m that crazy.
On Sunday Carl talked about how we can easily succumb to having a withered sense of vision. We train ourselves not to look anymore because it’s the easy thing to do. We even go as far as to make excuses to justify our callous behavior. It’s just unacceptable. This needs to change.
I write this not to make people feel bad, but because I think there are a lot of people out there that would benefit from a huge dose of perspective. Armed with the right perspective, even those with a withered vision might be able to see once again.
“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one’s self. We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart that goes out of itself gets large and full of joy. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.”
– Horace Mann