Homeless people in our communities are a fact of life, especially in big cities. Many of us don't know how to interpret this situation or what we can do to help. We may vacillate between feeling guilty, as if we are personally responsible, and feeling angry, as if being homeless is entirely on their shoulders. The situation is, of course, far more complex than either scenario. Still, not knowing how to respond, we may fall into the habit of not responding at all. We may look over their heads and not make eye contact, or look down at the ground as we pass, falling into a habit of ignoring them. Each time we do this, we disconnect ourselves from a large portion of the human family, and it doesn't feel right.
Most of us know in our hearts that the homeless and the poor are not so very different from ourselves. They may be the victims of poor planning or an unavoidable crisis. Some of them are mentally ill, some are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and some are choosing to be homeless for reasons we may never fully understand. We can imagine that, given their lives, we would likely have ended up in the same place. This does not mean that we are meant to rescue them as they are on their own learning path, but it does remind us that we can treat them as equals, because that is what they are. Even if we aren't able to offer food, shelter or money, we can offer a blessing as we pass. We can look them in the eye and acknowledge our shared humanness, even if we don't know how to help them. This simple act of kindness and silent or spoken blessings can be helpful to those living on the street.
If you want to help with information, you can learn about any services and share the locations of food banks, shelters, and other resources available in your area. As parents, perhaps you would like to plan ahead, talking with your children about how as a family you would like to handle these situations. Whatever you decide to do, you will feel much better when you make a conscious choice not to simply look away.
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