While waiting for the bus home after work recently, I found myself talking to an old lady who was also in the queue. We made small talk about various things – where I live, her previous career, my disability – and it passed the time quite nicely until the bus pulled up to our stand. At that point, we were discussing employment, since I will be leaving my current job in June, and specifically what my next one could be and where I could be doing it. It was then that the lady, who had seemed pleasant enough, made an admission that immediately brought her down in my estimations.
“I know this probably doesn’t sound very sympathetic,” she began, arousing my suspicions of what was to come, “but I’ve never felt very sorry for homeless people.”
I felt the smile instantly fade from my face and I had to work hard to suppress my disgust. “If you’re working in your wheelchair, why can’t they?” she added. It astounded me that someone of this lady’s age and life experience could be quite so ignorant. Granted, I’ve never been through any of the hardships that a homeless person has, but I know – and often make a habit of pointing out – that it’s very hard for anyone to get a job, no matter who you are, and the longer you wait the more disheartening it can be. In addition to this, you should never judge a book by its cover. We don’t know the reasons why people are homeless, and every case is different, so what gives anyone the right to judge them? I think many people need to do their best to remember some things that are quickly being forgotten in this day and age; namely that we are all human beings, that the differences between us should be embraced and celebrated, and that we should resist and reject anybody or anything that uses them to try dividing us.
As I may have previously written, I gave some money to a homeless man I encountered on my way to work late last year, and my ability to do that and subsequently provide him with a cup of coffee gave me a simple but significant boost. I give a smile and a “hello” to anyone I see sleeping rough, because that’s what you’d do to anyone else in the street, so why would I deny them that basic courtesy? I’m treating them with the same respect as I would anyone else, because they’re not aliens or people to be looked down upon. They’re people who might just have lost their way a bit, and if they have, we should help them to find their way back to normality – or at least show our support.
Anyone who doesn’t, like that lady I was talking to at the bus station, will simply not dignify a response from me – as Dad has recently pointed out, if I don’t agree with something but don’t feel it is necessary to start an argument, I’ll simply disengage and glaze over until the other person realises their daft attempts to get through to me have been fruitless. I have to say, it’s worked wonders so far!
Can I ask a simple favour before I go? Just give Grace’s short documentary Living Native a watch below. You won’t regret it. Thanking you muchly!