The following is an account of observational research on homelessness. It poetically peers into the lives of those people who are trying to survive on the streets, and those who come to their comfort and aid. These people humble my soul.
It is a beautiful summer night in the park around the water fountain. Various people gathered. Some have bikes, others are sitting on blankets. Two young girls are chasing each other; playing… pushing. Church groups with youth ministries teaching social justice precede the experienced champions, meaning those who devote their lives to feeding and clothing many who have fallen off the grid.
“Any food left?” The question flies from a passing bike. “No. It’s all gone.” Sitting on a park bench two lovers hold hands. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. It’s all the same in a day. A lovely older woman passes by, “Do you know John Lennon… I’m going to say a prayer for him.” A group on the lawn is spread out on a blanket playing keep away. Dogs happily follow alongside their owners. “Hey, man. I heard you got a job. Congratulations.” Everyone is waiting for something. Whatever it is it is behind its usual time.
Slowly, a 21st century bread line forms. It gets longer and longer. Unlike the past, this offering is organized by individual effort and not a governmental program. The line continues to fill with youngsters, teenagers, young people, couples with children, middle aged, and older people; mostly from the streets or from shelters. Others have just found employment and haven’t received their paycheck. Many have not eaten yet today… and the line gets longer.
As nightfall approaches, the fountain lights show off its colors of red, green, and blue. This spot to eat is calming and poses a time to forget troubles. Momma and girls are the first to leave… stomachs full… just one more splash in the fountain water. The line remains long.
Behind this picture, lies the reality of human suffering, of people trying to find jobs in a lousy economy. Their irrelevance in a retail society screams out for justice. No one reported the attacks on homeless women last year, led by a group of heartless young men. It wasn’t newsworthy. But. homeless men with noble hearts appointed themselves protectors of the women. They are family to one another at a time in their lives when their own families have forgotten them. Unlike the picture painted of light and freedom, this one day is simply an escape from fear, hunger, and despair. Life on the street is not a picnic in the park, but those who choose to see these people as lights from God’s own eyes hold a special place in the universe.