With millions of decorative lights giving this semi-tropical paradise a festive glow, seeing a black man (people of color are fairly scarce here, except those who provide services) in a posh neighborhood far from any shelter pushing a grocery cart teeming with his stuff gave me pause. So did the guy sleeping on the park bench as luxury cars zoomed past him...and the guy awakened by an errant disc golfer's drive (not mine!) at a park...and the woman lugging her belongings near the high-end shopping center....
"No room in the inn" is an oft-used phrase at this time of year. It has a sweet, sacred meaning when talking about the Holy Family. We utter it, and seldom ponder the meaning. That family was homeless. So are lots more today, in the richest country (not counting the subprime fallout) in the history of the world. And we continue to "grow" homelessness by ignoring families and youth.
We've gotten used to homelessness, if not outright comfortable with it. An article from the Arizona Republican gives a fairly comprehensive picture of homeless life outside Phoenix, and it's not pretty. The sole reference to children/youth points to 1 out of 20 students in Kingman's school district identified as homeless. No mention of the fact that the area has no shelters and few services for families....
Last night I drove past a pet resort, with more lights than Chicago's well-lit Michigan Avenue. Pets deserve a Merry Christmas...and all the comfort that money can buy, and at this place it takes a lot of money. I guess it's easier to care for pets than people.
Seems to me we've let ourselves get way off track as human beings. Our choices are to continue humming "there's no place like home for the holidays" ignoring the reality of homelessness all around us--in every community--or to put our resources to use to line up with our professed religious beliefs. In the words of an overused campaign (with apologies to non-christians),
What Would Jesus Do?Here are my humble suggestions for starters:
- Look at your BLESSINGS and figure out how to generously share them with your favorite local charity or HEAR US;
- Share your time and talents with a local program that helps homeless families, teens or adults;
- Send a Piggies fax to your local congressperson urging them to support the HEARTH Act, which expands HUD's definition of homelessness;
- Get a copy of the short documentary, My Own Four Walls, watch it and share it.
- Read the book, Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness, and use your enlightenment to brighten this world....