Growing up, I’ve always had friends and family tell me to be mindful of how I treat others. They would tell me that everyone is fighting a battle. We may not know what the battle is, but everyone has some sort of battle going on in their lives. This is why we need to treat everybody with respect, no matter how hard it is. Sometimes people are cranky or even plain rude to you, and in the moment we just reciprocate the behavior, but the more wise thing to do is to walk away. Of course, this is much easier said than done and I am not a person to stand on my soapbox and yell at people who comment back at the cranky person because I have taken a few opportunities to do the same thing. But, maybe because I’m getting older, I simply walk away. Engaging people is just not worth it to me.
Life hits some people harder than others. This reminds me of the lyrics of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey: “Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues.” Life happens, and for some, bad things, and sometimes really bad things, happen. Some people make choices that lead to their bad situations while in some cases something went horribly wrong along the way. For those who made bad decisions, it’s easy to be on the outside and judge by saying that they should not have made those choices, and this may be true, but we are where we are and we need to keep moving forward. I believe in second chances, if people are willing to step up and do the work to get their lives back on track. Let’s face it, we’ve all blown it with something because none of us are perfect. Of course, our shortcomings may have not torn our lives apart, but they could have. Bad things can unfortunately happen to anyone.
There are some people who don’t want to get back on the right track; that don’t want to make the right decisions; that don’t want our help. In those cases, while still being respectful, we just move on. Some people can’t make the right choices due to addiction. I would say that in those cases we do what we can, because as we know, addiction is a real thing and there is not one easy solution – just a lot of political grandstanding.
As pretty much everyone knows, over the past several years, we have been experiencing a growing homeless population here in our beloved city. There are of course many reasons why people have taken a liking to Manchester, from access to services to other communities sending their homeless here, because, you know – “not in our backyard.” And it’s happening more than we know. I recently read where a man was sent here to Manchester via taxi because there were no services for him in his home community.
Whatever the reason that the homeless are here, and whatever life situation they are experiencing, we need to remember that THEY ARE PEOPLE. All too many times, probably out of frustration for the lack of viable solutions coming from City Hall, the homeless are lumped together as a bunch of bums who would rather live on the streets than get a job. I get frustrated too, mostly because it has been going on for so long with no real solutions being presented. Some people do prefer to live outside, but in my experience, the majority of those who do not have a place to call home, do not want to live on the streets. I personally do not know of anyone who wakes up one day thinking that they want to live on the streets, especially with our weather. I have spoken to a few who rather enjoy living outside, but the vast majority of homeless do not want that lifestyle and wouldn’t wish it for anyone. Living in survival mode is not for most people.
Putting a Name to a Face
I myself use the word “homeless,” but do not do so to bunch everyone who is without a permanent address into one group of people who are the same – nameless people. It’s a term. Just like I do not believe all Republicans, all Democrats, or all elected officials are all the same, I do not believe that all homeless are the same. I do not believe that any two people are 100% alike. “Two peas in a pod” does not mean 100% alike, it means similar. No two people are exactly the same.
The homeless are people; they have names; they have stories. They probably had totally different lives before becoming homeless. They are human beings. They just have a different lifestyle than most of us.
A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to help clean a city park and engage with the homeless who camp around it or walk through as the city park ranger was actively telling anyone who “looked” homeless to move on and not sit in the park. (For the record, the people were sitting to eat a sandwich that we gave to them. And not allowing people to sit in a public park is just wrong…I do not care what they look like).
During our time in the park, I met a man who was originally from Massachusetts – we’ll call him Dave. He and his business partner ran a landscaping company in the Chelmsford area; they had both residential and smaller commercial clients. They did both landscaping and snow removal so were busy all year. To supplement, they also did drywall and painting, which in my opinion is smart because we all know how uncooperative the weather was last winter as well as during the beginning of the summer. (I know a few outdoor service companies who had a very rough stretch because of the weather). Dave explained that they were in business for about 12 years when his business partner – we’ll call him Harry, and his wife – we’ll call her Sally, decided to have an affair. The affair was ongoing for about six months when Dave found out – by walking in on them. This of course sent Dave on a downward spiral because he not only left his wife, but also his business because his business partner was having an affair with his wife!
So after a couple of weeks, Dave decided to leave it all. He opened a map book to a random page and pointed to the greenest place on that page, which happened to be Bear Brook State Park up in Allenstown because – as Dave put it – he would go live with the bears. After a couple of years, Dave decided that he needed to get back into society and try to get back to where he was before the life spiral. So he walked to Manchester, entered counseling, and is now working to rebuild his life. When he strolled into the park – he was using it as a shortcut to get to the library to use a computer – our younger son stopped him to give him a sandwich.
There is Always a Reason
I am not interested in doing research to find out if every element of Dave’s story is true, or to judge whether or not Dave deserved the sandwich. Not my job. Verification is the job of people who look at that stuff to determine if Dave can get government services – if Dave applies for such services. My job is to love and listen, and that’s what I did.
So let’s stop judging because everyone is a person and there is always a reason.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or discussion.