A Hypothetical Letter to the Homeless
What I Wish to Say to the World
It's no coincidence that this letter ended up in your hands. It was meant to find you. It was written for you specifically. It's not the act of a self righteous person searching for a way to feel better about themselves. You're not just a Christmas task that I took on to justify my selfishness from January to November.
The reason I wrote this and gave you those items is because I believe you deserve them. You deserve at least one day where you don't have to beg for your food, or for soap to clean up the filth from the world, or for gloves to protect your hands from the bitter cold nights. Withholding some of these things from an inmate in jail is considered inhumane so why don't we care when the man we see in the grocery store parking lot goes without them? You deserve the basic things that most people take for granted. The things that I take for granted and maybe you did too at one time in your life.
Unfortunately there is a stereotype about homeless people. A large part of society believes that EVERY person they pass who lives on the street is a drug addict who knowingly made certain life choices that has caused them to lose everything. Let's pretend for a second that's true (which it's not). Does that mean that a person without a home doesn't deserve a warm meal or to be acknowledged as a human being?
On behalf of those who feel that way and the ones who judge you so harshly, I'm sorry. I'm also sorry on behalf of the people that look through you rather than at you and the ones that avoid eye contact at all cost. I believe most people react this way for one of two reasons, one reason being they feel like there's nothing they can do to make a difference. Maybe they want to help but don't know how to in a safe and productive way. The other reason is that deep down under all the judgment lies fear. The fear of knowing how easily the roles could be reversed and they could be standing where you are now. Knowing that they made some of the same exact choices in their lives as you did, but they just got lucky and somehow managed to not fall through the cracks.
The truth is over 78 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck which means 78 percent of Americans are one missed paycheck away from living on the streets. One layoff, one bad financial decision, one more drink, one divorce, or one health crisis away from laying on a bench in a bus stop booth trying to stay warm and not knowing where their next meal is coming from. That terrifies people and sadly with fear comes ignorance. It's easier for some people to be ignorant and avoid the reality that you are a person. You are someone's son or daughter and maybe even someone's mother or father. You may have been an art teacher, a cashier, a firefighter, or a veteran who served and protected their very rights and freedoms.
So to further answer the question of why I'm doing this, it's because I see you and to be quite honest, I easily could be you. And because I believe (and I want you to believe) that your choices and your circumstances don't define you. And most of all, it's because I am no better than you just because of the difference in where we will lay our heads tonight.
You are not just a Christmas project! You are a person and you deserve warm hands, warm smiles, and a full belly, on Christmas and every day.