Homelessness: When empathy leads to apathy


What do you do when you see a person who appears to be homeless heading in your direction?  Do you try to avoid eye contact?  Do you pretend to be on your cellphone, or do you feel so bad for the person that you feel compelled enough to reach into your wallet/purse to give them money?  Me?..I simply ignore them.  It sounds pretty cold, but I can not nor will not understand why someone chooses to live and sleep on the streets.  When I wake up in the morning I am forced to go to work.  I know that I have to work to survive, and pay my bills.  And, I am also saddened when I come home to realize that I only have eight hours to myself.  I work for eight hours, I sleep for eight hours and I work for eight hours.  I guess that is a balanced life, but in reality it doesn’t feel that way.  Running errands often get in the way of relaxation.  But, this is what I choose to do.  I choose to work to pay for a place to stay, and I am not alone.  Most of us do it.  The question is why are there homeless people in the richest Country in the world?

I spent two hours this morning watching a documentary on MSNBC.  The documentary followed three runaway teens who are homeless.  At first, it is easy to feel bad for them.  One of the homeless teens was a guy, living life as a girl.  He/She was working as a male prostitute on the streets of Chicago.  It is safe to say that no one wants to see people living that lifestyle.  He/She reached out for assistance, and found a place to live.  He/She had a place to live under two conditions.  The first condition was he/she had to actively seek employment, and the second condition was he/she needed to get a physical from a doctor.  Sounds pretty easy to do, right?  Actually, this person couldn’t hold her end of the bargain when it came to seeking employment.  He/she had a hard time waking up for job interviews.  It was also hard for him/her to be taken seriously from a prospective employer when he/she was dressed in drag.

I don’t know about you, but if that was me I would ditch the make-up.  However, “it is what it is”.

Suffice it to say, he/she lost his/her housing.  I was left thinking why on earth would it be so hard for someone to not live to that deal? What is so hard about hitting the streets looking for a job?  Clearly, it is easier than having sex with a stranger.  I know what it’s like to be unemployed.  I was unemployed for five months, and I decided to sell everything I own and move to where the jobs are.  Homelessness is not my priority.

On my way home from work I see the same guy, on the same off ramp, holding up the same sign.  The sign reads, “I’m homeless..please help..God bless”.  I can’t tell you how long he stays out there, but I know he is there everyday at 3:40 pm.  He must be making money, which means that there are some people in the world that are not like me.

I know that we’re not all born the same, or have access to the same opportunity.  And, I know that we all experience things differently.  We all see things differently, as well.  That is the miracle, that is the mystery of life.

So, the next time you think you have it bad–remember that there are people who have it worse.

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One thought on “Homelessness: When empathy leads to apathy

  1. If I have a 5 or some ones I always give the homeless person money. I have started letting my kids do it for me through the window and they have both said it made them feel good about themselves to help someone in need. I know that alot of these ppl have put themselves in the situation they are in due to being alcoholics and drug abusers. They may very well use my 5 bucks for a sack of weed or some whiskey. But the way I feel about it is, if they are so desperate that they are willing to stand outside in public, begging for money, then he obviously needs it more than I do. I have never given the same person money twice. I am not a repeat giver. And I never give them more than $5. I always think to myself that I will give them enough to get a combo meal from McDonald’s so if they are hungry. $5 is not quite enough to buy much drugs or booze, but I guess after standing in the same spot all day they may take in quite a bit of money. If I ever get in a position to need to beg for money, I will just start hitting up my Twitter friends to paypal me some cash. LOL.

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