Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Insert Witty Title Here

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but I think that unless we become a communistic world, there will always be homelessness. It would force everyone into a world where everyone is the same, different jobs but same everything else. Heck, even then we'd more than likely still have homelessness, because some people want to be homeless.

I read a book last year in my Contemporary Novels and Cinema class, called The Glass Castle, which is a memoir written by Jeanette Walls. It describes her life with her siblings growing up, and how they always had to fend for themselves. Their mother hated responsibility and considered painting more valuable than being the typical mother, and their father had grand dreams, but his drinking usually dashed them. They traveled from run-down place to run-down place trying to escape debt and get an adrenaline rush. Their mother even referred to herself as an "excitement addict." Many years later, after their father has passed on, Walls invites her mother to a Thanksgiving dinner. Her mother has been living homeless for years, and would not have it any other way.

That's the short version of the book, and it's been awhile since I read it, so some of the details might not be exact, but it gives you the idea. In the end Jeanette knew that she could not change her mother's ways and her choice of living.

I think that there are more people in the world like this. Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some mental disability involved, but a person has to want the help before they can accept it. Many homeless people have a disability. The other thing that would have to happen is that more people would need to be willing to take care of the homeless and the handicapped - and have the patience to help them. My junior year of high school, I worked with handicapped students with multiple disabilities at my school, teaching them basic skills, like addition and subtraction, and how to type up their names and addresses on a computer to help them remember their personal information. There were days where it was frustrating - lots of re-teaching over and over - but in the end it was rewarding for both of us. By the end of the semester the girl I worked with the most could type up her information from memory in 10-15 minutes, compared to the 3 hours it took her when she was given the information to copy from in the beginning.

Several of them graduated the same year I did, and I think I was more happy to watch them walk across that stage than I was to walk across it myself. Before the ceremony a couple of them recognized me from across the gym and raced to hug me and congratulate me. They had only seen me a handful of times during my senior year, but they still remembered me teaching them the year before.

It took a ton of patience, but I enjoyed it.

I guess my point is that many times the people need a lot more help than getting out of debt and such. Today's society encourages independence, and often people are too busy to remember that others still do need help.

I will leave you with an excerpt from my favorite play, The Boys Next Door by Tom Griffin. It's about four handicapped men who live in a group home and their caretaker. Lucien has to stand before the State Senate in this scene, because someone claimed he was capable of taking care of himself. Not understanding the situation, he eventually breaks down into sobs. The scene freezes, and Lucien rises, for one moment not handicapped.

"I stand before you a middle-aged man in an uncomfortable suit, a man whose capacity for rational thought is somewhere between a five-year-old and an oyster. I am retarded. I am damaged. I am sick inside from so many years of confusion, utter and profound confusion. I am mystified by faucets and radios and elevators and newspapers and popular songs. I cannot always remember the names of my parents. But I will not go away. And I will not wither because the cage is too small. I am here to remind the species.. of.. the species. I am Lucien Percival Smith. And without me, without my shattered crippled brain, you will never again be frightened by what you might have become. Or indeed, by what your future might make you." -Lucien Percival Smith

Why should the homeless and the handicapped live such poor lives when their only fault is a mix of bad luck and poor choices? Do I think that homelessness will ever be completely eradicated? No. Do I think it can be helped?

Most definitely.

No comments: