Just this past year, I’ve seen an almost uncountable number of tweets, blogposts, and other status updates on various social media urging people to give to animal shelters, and to adopt cats and dogs that would be otherwise doomed. The general public expectation is that many will respond to this outcry. Also, we are advised not to feed stray animals unless we intend to continue it and take responsibility for them. Yet when it comes to human beings in dire circumstance, it is not thinkable that when the service ends around noon that all those with the wherewithal to do so will go find someone in need to join them at their table. But here is a thought:
Last year the Gross National Income of the United States of America approached 16 trillion dollars. One half of one percent (a negligible tax perhaps?) would be about 80 billion dollars. That would be about $100,000.00 a year per homeless person to address needs for psychiatric clinics, shelters, education and job training. Maybe some amount less than that would go a long way towards helping those who can be helped. Then the people need to be honest with themselves about what they intend to do with those who cannot be, or refuse to be helped. Right now, we either let them die on the streets, or put them in prisons where they are fed and maintained at public expense anyway. Others are rounded up occasionally, washed off, given a meal and a shirt, advised to take their medication (which they do not know how to do, and couldn’t afford if they did) regularly, and put back out on the street.
Let’s suppose you slept under an overpass last night. You have vague thoughts of family somewhere, but you don’t know where that somewhere is. You haven’t had a bath in three or four months other than getting caught in the rain. You haven’t seen a doctor or dentist in over 10 years–you don’t remember for sure how long. Last year you stayed at a temporary shelter for a while, but it was overcrowded, and you were afraid of some of the others staying there. The last day you were there, they had some soup, but not enough to go around, so you left hoping to go somewhere and find something to eat.
You’re pretty sure the police are looking for you on account of that vending machine you broke into out of desperation three weeks ago. You remember frantically grabbing what you could carry including almost twelve dollars worth of change, and you got by on it for a couple of days or so. In your mind, you believe when they do catch you, they will torture you and possibly kill you. You are often out of touch with reality other than with your own hunger, pain, sickness, and general discomfort.
Your shoes don’t fit, don’t match each other, and the soles are worn through exposing your skin. It’s winter and you have some rags to wrap up in that you got out of a dumpster. You eat out of dumpsters, too when you can find anything. You haven’t eaten in a day or so, and the last meal you had at a table is only a vague memory. You don’t dare build a fire to keep warm for fear someone will hurt you if you get caught doing that. Sometimes you do it anyway. The person beside you warming up to the fire who refused to help you you build it does not exist, but you wouldn’t be convinced of it.
On a clear day, you might interview for a job if you’re allowed to remain inside any business long enough to do that, but in your current condition, no one will seriously consider hiring you at all. When you’re not frantically trying to find something to eat or drink, you sleep a lot, or try to. And when you do, your dreams are full of monsters just as your waking hours are. You are often delusional, but you are not at all aware that some of the things you think you see, hear, and even touch are not really there.
It rained yesterday, so you got to drink some water without mud in it out of a hubcap. So, you huddle under a bridge. You regularly feel sick, and afraid. You’re pretty certain other people hate you, and that they don’t care if you die. Two blocks down the road, you can hear people singing “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”. You tried to join them a couple of months ago, but you were asked to leave. You’ve been told often that you stink. So, if someone gave you a twenty dollar bill, would you get drunk? Might you take some substance that would make you feel numb for just a little while? Maybe you would, and not really care that much if it was illegal, or even if it kills you. If you were a puppy, somebody might take you home with them. But You’re not a puppy. As things are, your chances of that happening are not very good. Could that story be similar to one experienced by a quarter of a million people every year right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave?
But this is just here in America. In so many other places here on earth, the situation might be much worse. Maybe you’re absolutely certain this could never be you. And maybe you really don’t care about whether it is happening to others. It is your prerogative to feel that way. But if you are so disposed to consciously not care, please don’t waste your time trying to tell me about your personal relationship with a loving God, because I will not believe you’re telling me the truth. You can talk to me about your rights and what you feel you’re entitled to, and you can even tell me you believe the homeless are entitled to nothing. Come Christmas time, put your annual dollar in the bucket for The Salvation Army, and sing your songs of goodwill, but don’t expect me to applaud.