Thanksgiving Day is upon us. But not all people will be in a celebratory mood. If you're homeless, this time of year conjures up pain and despair. You're living on the brink with little assurance, if any at all, that life will begin anew unless there is government or public assistance.
I'm sure that most people look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving. But the homeless, more than likely, won't be privy to a traditional fare of turkey and dressing topped with giblet gravy and cranberry sauce on the side, zesty spaghetti, mac and cheese, cream style or whole kernel corn, green beans and peas, turnip greens, cornbread and cakes and pies.
It is estimated that at least 1,600 people are sleeping on the streets of Memphis and Shelby County. Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr., in collaboration with the Community Alliance for the Homeless, are keenly aware of this travesty and unveiled a plan in 2011 to end homelessness within 10 years.
I applaud their effort, but it must be matched by a hands-on approach to whittle down the homeless rate. In essence, the homeless need the basics to sustain life – food, water, clothing, shelter and sometimes medicine – to help bring them back from the brink. They simply need restoration.
Their dire circumstances shouldn't be ignored. They need more than empathy during this holiday season. I would venture to say that many of them are homeless because they may have lost their jobs, may have incurred skyrocketing medical bills and probably had nowhere else to turn.
So why not take a stand and make this holiday season a blessed one for the homeless. If you've ever seen the faces of those who've fallen on hard times, I'm sure you were forced to look within. None of us is secure in this day and time. "Many of us are a pay check away from being homeless," the saying goes.
While we're celebrating Thanksgiving and this holiday season, do we really understand our civic duty and biblical mandate? According to the Bible, we should help our bothers and sisters in their time of need. No one asks to be homeless. But the pain and despair will dissipate, I'm sure, if we just lend a helping hand.
The emotional wellbeing and the physical health of those who're living on the streets largely depend on the generosity of others to help restore their wretched lives. The deplorable condition they find themselves in is simply heartbreaking, particularly when you see them scrounging for food and sleeping in cardboard boxes under the cloak of darkness as well as in broad daylight.
Have you ever imagined how the homeless must feel or what state of mind they may be in when they see so many people – like yourself, for example – living, what seems to them, an abundant life? I'm sure the emotional impact from such a perception is all that's needed to keep the homeless bound by despair while others celebrate the trappings of Thanksgiving.
Imagine not being able to celebrate with your family around the dinner table as the smell of succulent food wafts throughout the house. The holidays can be very painful, stressful and, in some cases, fatal – not just for the homeless, but for the depressed. There have been cases of heart attacks, strokes and deadly fights between family members.
The homeless population is just as vulnerable to serious health problems, debilitating diseases, and deadly fights, of course, between themselves. There are consequences to living on the streets, and the victims are often those who don't have the wherewithal to fend for themselves.
What does homelessness really look like, and would you notice it if it stares you in the face? It looks like you and me – people trying to get ahead in life and trying desperately to avoid slipping into the murky depths of financial ruin and possibly homelessness.
We may not sleep in a tent made of cardboard boxes, but it suffices as the only shelter where some of our unfortunate brothers and sisters have to lay their heads. But sometimes I wonder which is worse: trying to find food and shelter or dealing with the propensity for family disruptions due to an untimely death, neglect or abuse.
In both cases, there is too much neglect and abuse to go around. However, I've learned that the homeless are compassionate toward each other despite the occasional flare-up on the streets – because they tend to look out for each other's wellbeing.
So, during Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season, we should spread good cheer. And it wouldn't hurt to treat a homeless person to a hot meal, some warm clothes or give that person a little money to ease their pain. And by all means, try not to judge them.