He couldn’t stay for dinner. The young husband and father had to be off to work an evening shift. His wife and daughter stayed to eat a meal provided by a group which helps homeless families. There were others at the table in a similar predicament. Working people who lose a job and desperately try to find another. During the time when unemployed, the limited saving are used. A house is lost, rent can’t be paid and without some savings a down payment or an up front rental deposit is not possible. A not for profit group provided the food and temporary housing. These are not people gaming the system. These are people who like so many of us work most of their lives. Many start in high school and continue after. The wife or girlfriend may become pregnant and a child is born. Not a problem, one and often both people work, perhaps longer hours after a child comes into their lives. That’s OK work is not something they fear but loss of work is. Like most of us we live from paycheck to paycheck with some reserve for those rainy days, not much but some. People with certain skills or education level can generally adjust enough and hold it together to make it through some difficult or job loss times. The unskilled and less educated have much greater difficulty making ends meet or regaining their footing. These people are not demanding time off, overtime pay, even a living wage, which each deserves, but are simply saying, let me have a decent job. I’ll do the rest. Let me keep my dignity. I want to work and take care of my family. Is it so much to ask? This is what most people want and need. Fortunately there are some who have more and are willing to help with their money or their time. There are also the haves who don’t help but want more claiming to be the job creators and the power behind our economic engine. These low skilled or unskilled people are an essential component of the economic engine working for America. The workers who believe in what they do, understand why and merely want to be a part so as to provide for themselves and their families.
This American society we have created has given us homeless families and the working poor. We, man, created this condition and man can fix the problems. Some may consider this attitude to be ” bleeding heart liberals” or coddling or any other number of pejorative terms for caring and just believing we can do better. It is easier to pass responsibility onto family and church and charities than to accept that the responsibility is ours individually. Blame the economy or claim it is someone else’s job to fix it. These people, working poor, without homes are generally a good distance from view. The working poor are not Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man that we never see and so many of us choose to ignore. We claim we gave at the office, these people need to help themselves, any excuse will suffice. Justify your behavior particularly when you suspect or know it’s wrong. The 30 pieces of silver or $10.00 dollars or 10,000.00 dollars given does not wash our hands of the problem. Pontius Pilot tried that. How well did it work for him?
No one gets a free pass neither Christian, Muslim, Jew, agnostic, atheist or whatever cover one claims. We are in this together. Truthfully from what I have seen those at the bottom really are who we should seek to imitate. Think about it could you stand before your wife and children with your head held high with dignity when you have become homeless? These people do not need the crutch that alcohol or drugs or more commonly self-pity provides. Leave for work through the temporary door from the bedroom you can only use temporarily, hug your children, kiss your wife good-bye and fight. We owe each other a helping hand no matter what our so-called status is. If we ever deserve to stand up we need to understand how to reach down. If anyone wants to ridicule that, label it in some condescending matter, than shame on you. Otherwise open your eyes and look around, look around at work, in the lower cost and thrift stores, good people struggling people are everywhere. Just rub your eyes, your vision will clear and you will realize all people are visible. People who are standing near you but need a helping hand are extremely hard to overlook when you can see.
One thought on “Not So Invisible People”
People my age which certainly qualifies as a senior citizen seem to have drifted off course. The 60’s and 70’s saw young people speaking out against certain inequitable circumstances in a good way. The motivation for people then seems to have changed with age in a more self centered/selfish way. If we all listen to each other and speak up, we can reclaim that sense of caring for and helping each other.