I have never given enough thought to how hard it is to get off the streets. Yes, even if you really want to. I used to be one of those people who truly believe that wanting to do better and being determined about it is perfectly enough for a fast and painless change, but the physical reality of things says different. And it took me personal experiences to actually SEE that.
It’s a process that depends not only on a person’s determination, but also on less controllable life factors like good luck, unconditional kindness of random strangers, benevolent forces of nature, mental strength, and other kinds of support from the world that more often than not appears quite uncaring toward those who cross the line of socially acceptable.
One thing I can tell my fellow human beings — sometimes it’s good to see the world without judging, without assuming, without going too deep into logical reasoning. Good for those of us who might need a little spark of light and warmth in what seems to be the cold, never-ending darkness.
I am not saying that you have to dedicate your life to saving the homeless or give all your hard-earned money away to those who might just spend it on alcohol or drugs. What I am saying is “don’t assume”, and if you can’t help, don’t be judgmental either. Just keep walking.
Yes, that guy on the street corner might spend your $1 on a drug… No, that trashy-looking woman may never decide to go to a shelter or get a job… It’s true, that old guy’s own actions have led him to the situation he is in… But you can never know the exact life story of anyone, and you can never know what they think and feel, and what they truly want, and where exactly they are going.
On a cold day, your one cup of coffee and a donut can save someone’s life. Not every day — just once. Or maybe letting a homeless person charge their phone by your store (instead of kicking them out) will mean a difference of life and death for them because access to the Internet that particular night will be detrimental to how their life turns around. Or maybe letting someone sit inside your little restaurant (if they are no danger to others) will save them from dying from hypothermia that very cold evening. And if someone comes to you asking for a job but wears stained, ripped jeans and no shoes, and has dirty nails, maybe just consider them no less than your clean, well-groomed applicants because they will turn out to be an honest and a hard-working person who happened to be on the streets for reasons you simply can’t guess. And getting that job can mean a difference between moving forward and killing themselves, getting clean or going back on drugs, making a living or stealing — not because they are “bad”, but because this is their edge and they can’t take it anymore.
No one has to be a “mother Teresa” all the time. What I am saying is don’t be a dick either. Kindness goes in circles, just like violence, and every move, every gesture, every thought and every look we give to the world matters greatly.