By Mary Cucarola – 8/7/23
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” ~Matthew 5:5
I saw a dirty homeless woman sitting with her legs crossed on a median strip close to the underpass at the mousetrap (I-25 and I-70) on Saturday. She was older, with deep creased wrinkles, short greasy hair sticking out, filthy clothes, and a few tattoos on her arms. She had a weathered handwritten sign laying on the ground next to her, but I couldn’t read what it said.
I had to wait for the green arrow to turn onto the interstate, so I really looked at her. I wondered what her story was as she pulled a lighter out of her bra and lit her cigarette. I saw an emptiness in her eyes and a sense of detachment from society that had probably been there for a long time. I wanted to get out and talk to her, but I didn’t.
Most people around me complain and criticize the homeless endlessly, such a scourge and drain on society they say. But are they a scourge on society or did society help create the problem? I know the issue is complex, but I think it’s crucial to approach this issue with empathy and a willingness to understand the multifaceted nature of the problem.
I have compassion for the homeless because my son could have landed there very easily without our financial support. He lived out of his car for five weeks for a while when we were trying “tough love”, which didn’t work. It made things worse because he got into legal trouble.
SAMHSA estimates 38% of the homeless suffer from alcoholism, while 26% abuse drugs. It’s probably higher.
About 30% of the homeless have serious mental health issues and 20% have both addiction and serious mental health issues called dual diagnosis, compared to only 5% of the general population. Other reasons are loss of a job, or a family member can’t find a job that pays a sustainable wage, domestic abuse at home, or lack of affordable housing. Like I said, it is a multifaceted problem with no easy answers.
But the one answer I am advocating for today is compassion for them. Sometimes people need help, not everyone has a good life. If Jesus were here, the homeless would be His people. It is those with empathy and compassion who will inherit the earth, not the domineering and harsh, Jesus says in the Beatitudes. Be thankful that by the grace of God, you are not in their situation.
The Beatitudes are my favorite verses in the Bible (Matthew 5:3-12). I discovered them when I worked my steps with my original Al Anon sponsor many years ago. The Beatitudes are radically bold statements of grace, not law.
Allow for grace instead of harshness and blame, next time you see a homeless person. Be gentle and kind. You don’t have to give them money. Give them a protein bar like my friend, Trudy, does or pray for them, that’s all I ask.
Mary Cucarola – 8/7/23