Gratitude for My Home — and Sympathy for Those Without

In my nice neighborhood, I see many destitute people standing by the side of the road with cardboard signs, begging so they can buy something to eat. When we understand our common humanity, we are obliged to be grateful for what we have, and to not scoff at those who have less.

by Jack Bragen

 

I enjoy the seasons from the comfortable perspective of living in my air-conditioned, heated apartment. I like to go out on my front porch and watch the rain. And I like to come back inside my apartment where it’s warm, safe and illuminated by artificial lighting.

I like the summer months, except for the times I am away from air conditioning. It feels good on a very hot day to sit under the chill breeze of a recently replaced air conditioner.

When the seasons change, I try to take some time to contemplate how fortunate I am that I have all of my basic needs met. In the United States at present, many persons with disabilities receive Social Security and HUD housing assistance. (Many cannot get benefits due to budget cuts in the government, or for other reasons.) It requires that a person be able to jump through the hoops of bureaucracy, and one of these hoops is paperwork.

Many are not government-savvy enough to follow the steps needed to receive assistance. I cannot imagine the amount of suffering I would feel if I were in a position of having no means of support, no steady supply of food and medicine, and no shelter from the elements.

In the nice neighborhood where I live, I see an increasing number of destitute people who stand by the side of the road with cardboard signs, begging, so that they can buy something to eat.

Many are veterans who have risked their lives on the premise of protecting this country. In the process of fighting these wars on our behalf, many have sustained post-traumatic stress. Imagine going off to war intending to serve your country, and then coming back home, only to be thrown away by an ungrateful society.

Human beings are fragile things. Video games and James Bond movies are misleading in their portrayal of what the human body can take. In adventure movies, heroes are able to take dozens of punches, knife wounds, bullets to the shoulder, and other offenses to the body, and yet are still able to get back up and fight some more.

This is not realistic. When things happen to our bodies and minds, we feel pain and shock, and we may not fully recover for many years, or decades, or at all. I still have pain from being bruised in a relatively minor auto accident I experienced six or seven months ago. I still have perceptible signs of the black eye that I sustained in a fist fight more than 20 years ago. I still suffer from the effects of a whiplash from being rear-ended in my car in 1987.

“GI Homecoming” Artwork by Sandow Birk. Imagine going off to war intending to serve your country, and then coming back home, only to be thrown away by an ungrateful society.

 

Human frailty means that we suffer the consequences when forced to push the envelope too far. Living without visible means of support, and going without food, water, shelter, sanitation and medical care are all things that can cause permanent, irreversible, physical damage to people.

Where are the fabled jobs that scoffers are repeatedly suggesting that homeless people obtain? Companies are impelled, by the axiom of making a profit to stay in business, to only employ the most efficient of applicants. The saying goes: “I’m not running a charity.” Thus, people who have sustained damage are likely not competitive in the job market.

We are obliged by observing simple truths to be grateful for what we have, and to not scoff at those who have less. Nor should we consider ourselves better people than those who have not had the same good fortune.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Can Oakland Fix the Homeless Crisis It Created?

Many of Oakland’s homeless people are African Americans displaced or evicted, and now forced to move into illegal encampments. Oakland officials have used the decline in the African-American population to market Oakland to outsiders.

Berkeley Declares an Official Shelter Crisis

The critical mass of people shivering in doorways, behind dumpsters and in parks has stuffed a sock in the “we do enough for the homeless” song Mayor Tom Bates usually sings.

The Growing Plight of Internally Displaced Persons in Oakland

After Robert’s wife died two years ago, he lost his will to survive. Since then he has lived on the streets. He says what is most disheartening is the stigma attached to homelessness. He said he is looked upon as if he isn’t human.

Berkeley Fails to Control Police Misconduct

During the Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley, people trying to nonviolently protest police misconduct were obstructed and injured. Press officers were injured. Religious leaders were injured. People trying to help the injured were injured. Yet the Police Review Commission report about police tactics has glaring omissions.

Greyhound Therapy: Symptom of a Failed Mental Health System

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas handed out bus tickets to about 1500 gravely disabled patients, “transferring” them to states all over the country. Patients were sent to states where they had never been a resident and areas that had no mental institution prepared to receive them.

Serving the People on Martin Luther King Day

Leajay lost everything all at once — her job, her housing, her belongings in storage, her children, and then her freedom when the Berkeley police arrested her and put her in jail. This happened many times. Homelessness is a crime in Berkeley, she said, and the remedy, incarceration.