My house is warm and I sit here comfortably in front of my laptop, the Christmas lights twinkling in the background. Tom’s face is glowing from his own laptop. It’s quiet and the music from this short film (below) is playing. Please watch this short film.
It’s difficult to think about homelessness now, during this season of comfort and beauty, intimacy with family and friends, connection, goodness and abundance. But you see it is only that for some of us. For many Americans next Friday, Christmas day, will be like this Friday, and the one that comes after that.
Tonight, anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless in America. The homeless population is about 50 % African-American, 35 % white, 12 % Hispanic, 2 % Native American and 1 % Asian according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
Last year was the first year on record, according to an annual study conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, that a full-time worker at minimum wage could not afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country at average market rates.
At this time of such warmth, figuratively and literally, I think we should stop for a brief moment and reflect on our abundance. I was struck during the climate change talks in Copenhagen, the spokespeople for the poor nations of the world kept saying things like: “You are not serious about global warming, because it doesn’t make any difference in your day to day life. We are because it is a matter of survival.”
What does God think about our national greed and selfishness? The homeless in our inner cities or on State street here in Madison, the teenagers hanging out in malls and public areas covered in piercings and goth clothing, the workers at Copps grochery store who clearly hate life and quite possibly hate you too, the cashier at the gas station clearly not from “here”, or the faceless people on the receiving end of food banks that our churches and school supply? What does God think about children going to be hungry?
What do you or I think about these people who if we actually notice them push us outside of our comfort zones?
I wonder who is just surviving this holiday — literally. Who is hungry. Who is cold? And what I should do about it?
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45).
I don’t have the answers, but I think it is worth asking ourselves what then should we do?
Some reads about Homelessness:
Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (with Kids) in America, (Viking Adult, 2005), Michelle Kennedy, about her experiences being homeless for several months in 1997 after her marriage fell apart.
Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women (Penguin,1995), Elliot Liebow, demolishes the anonymity of the homeless. Skillfully blending a social scientist’s objectivity with humanitarian concern, he observes women who live in a variety of shelters near Washington, D.C.–how they interact with one another, family and shelter staff; pass their days; and struggle to retain their dignity in the face of rejection by society.
Lastly, this is a moving set of images of women striving to survive and feed their children from the New York Post (if I remember correctly.)