13 February 2013

heart for homeless : homeless hearts

Love me some Banksy.
Social change is what we need! 

Last year, through various situations, I had the pleasure of befriending Portland's homeless community. I didn't volunteer anywhere, I just made friends.
I use the word pleasure intentionally and for the most part, it was exactly that. I say 'for the most part' because, admittedly, some homeless folk can be a little hard to deal with. But I believe that stems from not having a system that supports them properly. Truthfully, I might even say we have a system that does exactly the opposite, a system that can be incredibly disempowering, and even enabling, for someone experiencing homelessness, often due to improper health care systems and much more. But that is a whoooole other book to write...

I watched a movie tonight called Being Flynn. Have you seen it? Not only is it shot and edited extremely well but the way they depict homelessness in large cities is right on point. The story itself isn't the best but I enjoyed the fact that the issue surrounding homelessness was portrayed in such an honest and disarming way. They capture the emotion, the psychological issues, the shame and the physical and mental turmoil surrounding the issue very, very accurately. Also, the character depiction of the volunteers and staff members who work with the homeless; their selflessness, their never ending compassion and their ability to give with out taking, is flawlessly captured on screen.

I had no intention on even watching the film. I was spending time with my father after a simple meal I had prepared and it came on TV. We both sort of got sucked in and minutes later it had my brother, too. The feelings the film immediately engaged within my heart took me by surprise. I have seen it first hand. I have sat with homeless men and youth on the streets, I have sat with them in the pews of a church (not at service, to clarify). I have stood with them while they smoke (I don't smoke but sometimes find myself drawn to the social aspect of being a smoker) and I have listened to them talk when no one else will. Sometimes that shit gets real crazy, but sometimes we all get real crazy and we're just looking for an outlet.
In the beginning of my journey, many of the homeless people I encountered made me feel very uneasy and shy. I think our society had taught me to fear them in the that way I did. But when I allowed myself to understand that they were human, exactly like me, I was able to open up and become a friend.

I have written about how we're all the same. I dwell on this remarkable thought often. We really are all the same, heart and soul, children of God (or the Universe or the Divine or whatever) on earth, yet it's easy to 'forget' that everyone is included in that... including "crazy" homeless people and angry young black-block anti-everything kids with no roofs over their heads or caring families. Judgement is engrained, we have to work to see past it. And it's harder to see past it when you're looking at a guy who hasn't showered in weeks holding a sign with his own clever version of 'spare some change' written in Sharpie while his malnourished pup sits at his feet and you wonder if he reeks of alcohol or not. Most people choose not to see him at all.

But they all have names. And they all have stories. And yeah sure, some of them might be really fucked up, but that doesn't make them any less human than you or me.

Often times they feel forgotten. And a lot of times they are angry about it. They are angry about the unnecessary roughness they endure from the police and they are angry about not being allowed their right to a peaceful night's sleep. They hurting, they are struggling and they are in pain, whether their pride allows them to show it or not. Most of the time they're normal and they have pretty interesting shit to say. My favorite is finding myself smack dab in the middle of an intelligent or spiritual conversation with someone whom our society has cast off as a dead beat!

But the point of this, I guess, is to reflect on a time I now treasure. A time when I could say that most of the people I resonated deepest with had no place to sleep, no place to shower and no promise of their next meal. Many of them younger than myself.

But they all had names. And they all had stories. And they all had hearts.

I don't know if we all need to rush out and volunteer at a homeless shelter, we all have our own ways of making the world a better place and maybe that's not yours or mine. And I'm not saying we should all give money to every homeless person we see, but what I am saying is this; they are people. They are people just like you and me, with hearts and stories and love. If we all made a point to say hi, or pass on blessings, or give food if we feel so inclined, maybe the world would become a little lighter, a little less edgy.

I encourage you to not stop and think about whether or not they 'deserve' your hard earned change, or your snack or even whether or not they 'derserve' your blessing (because somehow society has made the majority of us believe the homeless are a lesser species) and just give them your love. Give them your love. Love is infinite and the more we give the more our own hearts will be bursting with it.

Just say hi, nod your head, make eye contact, bless, acknowledge.

It might make a world of difference. And we've got to start somewhere.

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