This is Brian.
Brian is a vibrant, funny, caring individual. He has hopes, he has sorrows, he dreams to one day go back to school. In many ways Brian is like you or me. There is one main difference.
When each day is done, Brian has nowhere to go. Brian is homeless.
I met Brian at a Chipotle. He walked in and asked if anyone could help a homeless man get something to eat. The room was silent, people refused to even look at him. It was as if he was a diseased animal that you were better off ignoring.
I waved him over, got him something to eat and asked him to sit down with me. Brian was incredibly grateful for the meal. He seemed equally happy, if not more so, to have someone to talk to. I heard the pain in his voice as he talked about having nowhere to go. I saw the hurt in his eyes as he talked about people treating him like his homelessness was all his fault.
Consider how difficult it is to get a home after becoming homeless. To get a home, you need money. To get money you need a job. Usually when applying for a job, you need an address, a home.
It turns out that many people (myself included) just ignore the homeless, pretending they don’t exist. As soon as I can’t see them, they are out of my thoughts, and I continue on with my day.
This is America, the land of opportunity, if you work hard enough you will succeed.
I’ve heard that refrain in some form or another many times in my life. It is alluring, a way to credit ourselves for things out of our control. In my case I was able to go to school because of my family and I have gotten jobs because of the people I know or the school I went to; all things outside my control. The more I think about it, the more hollow and false that promise of American opportunity sounds. It is used to justify injustice and paint greed as good and generosity as foolish.
As a follower of Jesus I am saddened that some churches have become places where it is more important to tithe and wear nice clothes on Sunday than it is to love your neighbor as yourself. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance. Regardless of your own religious affiliation, or lack of, how can you support repressing and marginalizing a class of people?
As the rich grow richer, the homeless get pushed farther into the edges of society. We care less and less about them, and more and more we try to blame them for their circumstances. “They could fix this themselves”. But how could they when we have all the power, all the resources, all the money. They are the least and they have nothing.
It also can be convenient to decide it’s a problem for someone else. “The government will solve this.” “I don’t have that much money, what can I really do?” There is a resource that you have just as much of as the wealthiest billionaires. Time.
Change begins with you.
Engage with the homeless. Buy someone a sandwich or just sit down and chat. Sacrifice a little comfort and a few minutes of your day to help bring a little hope to someone else’s. You may be amazed to find that you will benefit from this as well. I’ve shared some of the hurts and pain in my life with Brian. He genuinely cares, when I see him he asks me how I’m doing. He is a friend, a son, a caring individual, a human and in many ways he is just like you or me.
This is Brian.