A few days ago my friend shana was talking about how Americans make people into issues. Instead of people being without homes, they are homeless…their humanity stripped from them. Part of me maintains that currently we have “politically corrected” ourselves out of the ability to have real and meaningful exchanges without first consulting the up to the second dictionary on what not to say…today. On the other hand, there is something to be said about the human ability to remove emotion from something. instead of seeing ourselves. It is the way we have made iraquis a number – 30,000 – instead of putting faces to them like we do with our dead soldiers.

The conversation comes to mind because today, while walking around the city with my friend, we were approached by three people. Two i assumed were without homes, the third was something else entirely. They all speak to my point. The first stopped to ask us for change. I’m not sure if my friend complied with the request, but the gentleman continued to talk to us. He brought up the recent beating death of a 7-year-old girl . He talked about his own mother, how she used to “pat” him and send him on his way. But his sentiment was a sincere questioning, “how can someone beat a little girl to death.” All of us nodded our heads in disbelief and then parted ways.

A few blocks later we ran into another man without a home. He also requested money, but this time we only nodded our heads and replied, “sorry”. He nodded his in return and wished us well. We returned the words and moved on.

Two doors from liz’s apartment we approached a man that I assumed was without a home because he carried a pair of boots and a red cross blanket still wrapped in red cross wrapping. Instead of a request for money we were propositioned by him. Not for sex, but for sales of a different kind. He asked if we wanted to buy something.

We nodded, this time to say no, and carried on upstairs.

It comes together in my head because with the first two I didn’t reach into my pockets and pull out money. If I truly put myself in the place of someone without a home (being somewhat homeless myself) I would have given them something. but I didn’t. although, in all fairness, I don’t think referring to the homeless as people without homes would make me more inclined to give money to every person that asks.

as for the other guy, I just kept seeing the people in need at the fema and red cross tables in southern Louisiana. What I might have discarded as background noise in my life is instead a highlighted passage. I couldn’t see beyond the clear wrapping prominently stamped with the red cross logo. And for his part, without me knowing his situation and where he is coming from…maybe he needed the blanket but needed cash more…I automatically thought how could he do that when so many people are in need? but equally, how could i not buy it from him if he is in need?

…where is the humanity in that – for either of us? how is it identified? how do i know?

Leave a Reply