Homeless In A World Of Rejection And Apathy
In an interview that included talk of his success, Bob Marley – who is mistakenly attributed with the quote, “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” – had the following exchange:
Interviewer: Are you a rich man? Marley: What do you mean, rich? Interviewer: You have a lot of possessions? Marley: A lot of money in the bank? Possessions make you rich? Marley: I don’t know that type of richness, my richness is life.
Richness in its truest form is about more than possessions, more than money. The same can be said about poverty. Money alone cannot create a solid foundation for a healthy life. One needs food, water, air and shelter, the most basic needs, combined with compassion, acceptance and friendship in order to live a rich life.
What happens to those who go without?
When you watch people from a distance as they interact, or don’t interact, with some of the most impoverished in our community, you might be astute enough to realize that homeless people are treated not like someone but something that is to be feared.
Stereotypes might be to blame but don’t forget that people are a product of their environment. When it comes to homelessness, an uncommon topic at the dinner table, it is uncommon to witness public displays of compassion and acceptance towards people who are impoverished and homeless.
Don’t think it goes unnoticed.
For his role in the film ‘Time Out Of Mind’, Richard Gere posed as homeless on the streets of New York, a city where, when he’s not acting, he is actively involved with organizations addressing poverty and homelessness. On his first-hand experience living on the street, Gere said in an interview that he could see people see and judge him from a distance. As they got closer they changed their trajectory to avoid contact. Some even crossed the street.
Real homeless people can relate. They feel ignored. They know rejection. They are treated like outcasts. And they are more likely to be berated, beaten and robbed than someone in the general population. But to the general public, oddly, homeless and impoverished people are to be avoided.
While people who are homeless are living in poverty, experiencing food shortages, and risking the wrath of Mother Nature and human nature, it is not housing or food or safety that they most desire. In speaking to an elementary class in B.C., a homeless man, brought in by the school to help teach empathy, shared that the one thing he misses most is human connection. “I just want a hug,” he said.
This man, and many like him, know poverty in its truest, deepest sense. They exist in a world almost entirely void of compassion, acceptance and friendship. Loneliness bankrupts them.
What has society created?!
Throughout the novel Frankenstein, first published on January 1, 1818, author Mary Shelley used poverty as a re-occurring theme. It is most uniquely demonstrated by Viktor Frankenstein’s creation, a creature who experiences rejection from the people he most wanted acceptance.
Forsaken by Frankenstein and then by the townspeople, this so-called monster spends time alone watching and learning from an impoverished family living in the forest. He admires this family from afar for their strong sense of love, their loyalty to one another, for their values and for the warmth and comfort they have created in their modest home.
To the prospect of one day meeting the family, his only hope is that they look past his hideous exterior and notice that he possesses similar values.
He would be rejected and hurt once more.
Only the patriarch of the family – a father and grandfather – could see the good in the monster. Ironic, considering the elder man had long ago lost his sight. To his advantage, he was blind to superficiality, judgement and prejudice.
Through the family’s failure to offer even the slightest of companionship, the monster learned about the poverty that is experienced when compassion, acceptance and friendship isn't present in a relationship. It’s a poverty that exists today, just as it did 200 hundred years ago when Shelley wrote Frankenstein.
It’s a poverty for which the solution is not money but compassion, acceptance and friendship – keys to a rich life.