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: , , , , , , , ,

Are Homeless People Beautiful?

We all find sunsets and meadowlarks and fields of flowers beautiful, whether we are rich or poor, housed or homeless. How did beauty become a cudgel to beat people up?

Silicon Valley’s Brilliant Design: Homeless Families in the Rain

Developers and Silicon Valley billionaires are so busy trying to milk profits out of our communities they don’t see the inevitable result of ignoring people’s housing needs: Families in the rain.

The Eviction of America’s Largest Homeless Camp

The Jungle was lodged in the heart of the venture-capital drenched Silicon Valley, 10 miles from the headquarters of the world’s most profitable corporation. It is important to remember that those living in the Jungle were not there “by choice,” but because they had nowhere else to go.

Gentrification Is Making Us Sick

Oakland activists are working with the Public Health Department to create a vision of healthy development without displacement. Also, Just Cause won a landmark victory with the Tenant Protection Ordinance that will protect thousands of tenants from harassment by landlords — the first protection for Oakland tenants in more than a decade.

Remember the Children Born On Our Streets

The International Day for Human Rights, held at St. Mary’s Center, was an occasion to honor the memory of people who had died homeless on our city streets during the past year. But more than that, it was a time to reaffirm a commitment to the fight for social change.

Dave Ferguson’s Lifelong Mission of Opening Doors

Dave Ferguson gave his entire life in service to the poorest of the poor. He was the director of the Open Door Mission in Oakland for 41 years.

“Dave has been constant, like a rock, offering the welcome, free food — and basic human kindness to everyone,” said Susan Werner. The message for all who are hungry and homeless, and who need not just food and shelter, but love and support, is that Dave Ferguson’s spirit continues to live.