The start of each new year brings with it hope for change. Hope to get healthy, to save money, to put down our phones at dinner. For our friends experiencing homelessness, it could be to find housing, get a job, or be free from addiction.
Regardless of what our hope for change might be, we all know making a change is hard. We know this because of our own past experiences at failing to reach a goal or break a habit. That feeling of failure, too, is discouraging—sometimes discouraging enough to make us believe there’s no point in trying to take a step toward growth.
What We Easily Forget
Failing and getting back up or struggling to get back up… this is part of the human condition. It’s one of the common threads in all of us. Yet, we can easily cast stones at those whose mess-ups or struggles are more obvious. Something we can commonly do with the homeless.
When a woman was caught in adultery and people wanted to stone her, Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” No one did. Yes, failing to reach a goal you’ve set for yourself and sinning are two different things, but what this verse shows is not one of us is perfect and that we can easily forget that.
Stereotypes of the Homeless
Among the many stereotypes thrown at homeless people, the “homeless people are lazy addicts who choose to be homeless” is a common one. And they are treated differently because of it. This stereotype not only oversimplifies the layered issues of homelessness, it dehumanizes the person experiencing homelessness because it doesn’t take into account all of who that person is.
For most of us, our lives are not on display like they are for someone who is without a home. Because of that, it’s easier for us to hide our mess-ups or for people to not see when we’ve failed at reaching a goal. So, when we do come across someone whose life is messy and on display, it’s hard not to make assumptions, point the finger, and forget that we too have messy parts of our lives.
The Beauty of New Year’s Resolutions
Thank goodness for New Year’s resolutions. They bring hope and show our humanness so plainly. When we don’t reach our goal for that week, when we eat that donut for breakfast, go shopping after a hard day, or check our Facebook at dinner, the humanness we so often try to hide is on display.
We ask each other what our New Year’s resolutions are and make declarations about it on social media for all to see. And then we mess up and get up again, or we don’t. But chances are your friend or coworker or that homeless person right outside your work messed up too, and you find a little more empathy for yourself and for them and are reminded that we are all human.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be addressing common stereotypes surrounding people experiencing homelessness. There are truths behind a lot of them, but they do not represent in any way the person as a whole or the systemic injustice that surrounds many of the people experiencing homelessness in our city. Instead, stereotypes point the finger, dehumanize, and feed this false idea that some of us are more valuable than others. Stay tuned for more on next week’s blog!