Have you ever peered into the eyes of someone completely lost, hopeless, forgotten? To look into their eyes and see nothing, no dreams, only despair? Often when folks see a homeless person, they will joke that they are talking to themselves, have you never spoken to yourself? Maybe you didn’t feel like there was anybody else to talk with, no one to listen, no one to validate your existence.
Being homeless, even for one night can be scary, it can be devastating for a parent with children, there are families separated because there might only be a room at a shelter for the wife and children, not for dad. In general, society tends to look the other way when they come across homeless people, mind you I said homeless people and not “the homeless”; the later is a way of disassociating them from society. Someone whom is homeless already feels alone, in fact it might be the absolute loneliest a person can ever be, and then on top of that for others to literally look away or cross the street to not have to come close is demoralizing at best. Not only are they marginalized but then they are simply ignored or admonished by the public as trash might be.
What put the homeless people onto the streets, why are they there? What happened to lead them into the shadows, to live under bridges, in sewer and run-off tunnels, along the river in tarp covered hovels built from fallen trees and branches, during the winter? Did they succumb to a mental illness not having insurance or ran out of money due to an illness? Did they lose their job, their home and their family? Have you ever felt so desperate that you found yourself sifting through someone else’s garbage? Have you ever been so distressed that you did things you might never have dreamed of doing? Things that made you feel dirty, immoral, disgusted with yourself or even less than human?
I am not attempting to make anyone feel bad or guilty, I just want people to remember there are folks out there barely surviving, they are sick, they cry at night because they are beginning to forget who they are, they fall asleep at night wondering if they will wake up, if they will be raped, if they will get to that point tomorrow where they will finally give in and do something they won’t be able to forgive themselves for, will they become the people they used to see wandering the dark places, ghosts of society, whose only thought each day is how to keep their selves or their children alive one more day.
This happens every single day, even in your community, believe it or not no city, neighborhood, community is immune. I know, I’ve seen those eyes before, I’ve stared into them, looking for some flicker of hope, some remnant of a bygone dream, I have looked past the dirt, the shame, the guilt, into the reddened, yellowed tired eyes through a broken mirror.
There is a reason lives are counted officially by souls, its because no matter your religion, race, culture, political stand, sexual identity, economic level or you live in the suburb or the city, in an apartment, a home, a car in a parking ramp, or under a bridge, we are all souls in the end, thriving or barely alive. We can never forget that.