Children are awesome in their innocence. Sometimes they say things that snap us back to reality and other times they say things that make us laugh. If you ask them what they envision for their future, you will get a myriad of stories. The problem is, not everyone will believe they can achieve the same things in their lives.
I have a cousin who is very proactive in his neighborhood, providing meals to the homeless and those who don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from. Those children dream of never going hungry, having a comfortable bed out of the elements and safety from the street life. Imagine if some of us stepped down into that lifestyle for even a day, how would we be motivated to work harder to ensure we never lived like that again? Yet to the people who have always lived in poverty, the dream of simply being out of the cold is almost out of reach.
Why don’t we feel more sadness for these situations? Why aren’t more people working toward helping those people get out of the slums and into society? Is it because those people aren’t posting selfies with the naked drunk in the cardboard box next to theirs? Are they out of sight – out of mind?
I know in my lifetime, I have only seen maybe a dozen or so homeless people in my area. I am also ashamed to admit that I did nothing to help them. Maybe it was because at one time I was a few inches of sheet metal away from being one of them. Mental illness is something that affects all of us. Even the most sane among us has been in contact with mental illness in themselves or someone in their immediate family. If you were to ask the homeless around you their story, mental illness would be involved in some way. The mental illness that many of us share is that of being overwhelmed. I had become overwhelmed with life after having had it rather easy for the first 20 years of it. Soon, decisions became harder and blurred. Living from paycheck to paycheck took its toll as I worked multiple jobs and seemed to barely tread water. At one point, I contemplated taking my own life.
Then, I met others who helped me with the mental difficulties by giving me hope. Hope had been something that I was lacking, because I had felt so beaten down from the constant stresses of life. But as I met more people who were struggling and doing something about it, it sparked something in me that changed the fuel source for my fire and for the first time in years – I was not afraid to put myself out there and talk to people. Comparing that to the people who huddle in sleeping bags near electric transformers to get as much heat as possible on a cold night is not possible. I can’t fathom those depths. It makes me sad that I don’t have the courage to go talk to those brave souls who aren’t afraid to keep on going when they have nothing but the cloths on their back and the sleeping bag that they roll up and carry with them.
But people like my cousin are out there, feeding them and telling them that they matter. I need to strive to become more like my cousin.