I’m an amateur photographer and was visiting Nashville, Tennessee, for a few days with my husband. He was there for his job, so I had to find things to do while he’s working. I walked the streets of downtown Nashville, intending to photograph the buildings and anything else of interest. Before long, I was talking to a homeless person. As I listened to his story, sitting there next to him and looking into his eyes, I couldn’t help but thought that this could be me, my children, or any of my friends. After that, I approached another homeless person, and then another, taking time with each one like I had no better thing to do than to listen to them. By the time my husband was done with his work, I’d talked to 6 of them.
In talking to these homeless folks and thinking what I would feel in their situations, I was reminded of the time I was a little girl in Bangkok, Thailand. I saw the beggars along the streets, many of whom had physical deformity, and I felt so much compassion for them that I could not eat the food at the restaurant where my family and I were dining. I wanted to put the few coins I had in my pocket into the tin cans they had set out to collect money from people. I wanted to talk to them, to show them I cared, but I was pulled away from them, and the impression I got was that these people were to be avoided. As a child, I could not do anything for the people whose pain and sorrow I was feeling.
But now I am an adult in America, and I can do something about it! I don’t have money to help them, because my husband and I have six children, and it’s all we can do to keep ourselves from becoming homeless. But I do have something else I can give them. I can use the two skills I am good at, photography and writing, to speak for them, so people can put faces and names to homelessness in America. They are real individuals, not just “a social problem” for the government to solve, or “a menace” for law enforcement to control. Not all the homeless individuals in America are drunkards, drug addicts, or lazy people waiting for a handout, as they have been so unfairly characterized. They have hopes and dreams just like you and me, and looking for the same opportunities that many of us take for granted. More than the daily sustenance of food, clothing, and shelter, they need our friendship and encouragement. I hope this blog will cause more people to befriend the homeless and give them a hand-up, not a handout. Money alone is not enough to take care of the problem of homelessness. It also takes a change in people’s perception and attitude toward the homeless individuals.