i have always been interested in poverty. i’m even getting my master’s degree in social work in hopes of improving my ability to work with people who are homeless and/or suffering from substance abuse or addiction.
some people however, are not. i get it. some people will argue that poverty and homelessness are the result of individual failings and character deficits- without considering societal contributions to the problem. unfortunately however, poverty is not that simple.
if you know me, you would know that i always do my best to give people the benefit of the doubt. sometimes i fail. and even though my passion is with working with individuals who are homeless or addicted, i have found myself leery of offering money to individuals on the street and usually provide material items (i.e., food, clothing) instead.
today while shopping in salt lake city, my boyfriend and i were approached by a man who asked us for money.
yes, he could have secretly had a lot of money
yes, he could have been taking advantage of people
yes he could have a nice car that he will drive home to
yes, maybe he could have been looking for a job instead
yes, he could be using the money for drugs
but couldn’t he also have been a person with a much more complicated story and life that contributed to his homelessness?
couldn’t he have been a person who really, truly, needed money?
the point is, i didn’t know anything about the man. and neither did you. he could have been any of those things, or a million different things. all i know was that he said he needed help. rather than ignoring him, making up an excuse, or walking right on by, we stopped.
my boyfriend and i gave him some money-without hesitation or reservation, without thinking twice or making any assumptions as to what he would do with the money. we looked him in the eye, gave him some money, and talked about the weather. it was freezing outside and i had a jacket on. he didn’t.
maybe it contributed to his drug addiction or the lump sum of money he already had, but then again, maybe it didn’t.
today, i didn’t judge someone based off of their unknown circumstances. i didn’t think twice about helping someone when i was in a position to be able to. and even if you can’t or don’t want to offer money, why not some hot chocolate or warm gloves? why not a smile or prayer at the very least? because you see, people in need-people who are homeless are still people. and in all actuality, they probably need a little more love and kindness.
I am not naive enough to believe that my five dollar contribution changed his life. nor am i naive enough to believe that money will eradicate poverty. it is far more complicated than that. but maybe i’m naive enough to believe that compassion, helping one another, and small acts of kindness can change the world.