Last evening I was speaking at a benefit/fundraiser. The recipients of the benefit were the area homeless, if you’re at all familiar with my work, taking up the cause for the homeless is very personal to me. I was destitute. No money, no car, no job, no prospects just the clothes I was wearing and a notebook, that was all. I lived in a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant in Westminster California, I ate there as well.
So when I was asked to speak at this event, I felt honored, and right at home. When I am speaking before an audience I dress in a suit and tie, this event was no exception, but….over my suit and tie I had on the same clothes I wore every day when I lived on the streets, I am also very careful to not be recognized by anyone prior to the start of my presentation. As I make my way on stage following the introduction, I begin taking off the clothes I wore when I was homeless, until finally standing in front of the 400 people that were in attendance, the same 400 people that passed right by me as I sat in front of the building with a coffee can with a sign that reads change anyone?
The reason for this little exercise is simple, to show perception is not reality. As I remove the clothing, the reactions I hear from people range from shocked to being ashamed of themselves, either way it get’s those in attendance to think. Perception is not reality in this case. All to often the homeless are thought of as social misfits, losers unable to get their lives together. I can still remember clearly some of the words hurled at me, things I was told or what I would have to do for the change in their pockets. Here’s a few perception/reality facts about the homeless, this coming from a person who knows all to well.
The perception is homeless people sleep in alley’s on pieces of cardboard, with liquor or wine bottles littered all around them. The reality is if we see something on the television, then it must be true, and this is how television portrays the homeless. By and large, most homeless people do not sleep in alley’s on cardboard. The perception is the homeless just panhandle and beg for money, annoying everyone passing by. The reality is when day labor jobs are available, the homeless are usually the first in line to get the work available that day. The perception is the homeless are criminals, and going to jail especially during colder months is a vacation for them. The reality is homeless people value their freedom just as much as the next person, in fact, not long ago a homeless man found a little more than 3,000 dollars which he found and turned into authorities. I know a lot of “regular” folk that would never have given a second thought to doing the right thing in this case, finders keepers they would say.
There are many more examples, but you probably get my point. Many of the homeless are on the street because of situations out of their control, and found themselves unable to stay above water. Nobody wakes up and declares this the perfect day to start living life on the streets, it happens due to a series of uncontrollable events. No this is not every homeless person’s story, but it is a high percentage, this much I do know.
We need to be grateful for all we have, not bitching for what’s missing. Look for ways to be a blessing instead of always looking for ways to get blessed. Looking down on another spiritual equal without knowing what happened is contemptible, and we are all spiritual equals. I am not saying to empty your pockets every time you see a homeless soul, but words of encouragement can sometimes go a long way. We are all a situation or two from being in a much different place in life, if you think for a second this could never happen to you, think again. Stay grounded, stay humble stay kind. Keep the peace and God bless…Paul