At one stoplight, I saw a young man, maybe 25, chatting with an invisible person. The conversation turned from laughter to screaming in between the colors red and green.
Further on, a gigantic Teutonic warrior princess of a woman, with bright yellow braids down either side of her grubby face, was shouting at a mother walking past pushing a stroller.
I want to gather them all up, feed, wash and screen them for mental illness. I’d like to give homes and jobs to the healthy ones, and put the mentally ill ones in kind, clean places where they can get help. But I’ve been involved off and on with charities that do that over the last 20 years and I have learned this: many of the apparently mentally normal homeless people couldn’t handle such goodness coming into their life.
Certainly, there are plenty who would be delighted for a while, but like lottery winners who blow all their money and end up in deep debt, the majority would likely manage to “screw up” in some way and end up back on the street in short order. Not show up for work, take drugs, get in trouble somehow.
Why would anyone do this? (And here’s where you might find some similarities between them and yourself…if not to that extreme…)
Because they don’t think they are worth more.
They don’t think they are worth having a home, a clean bed to sleep in, a job, people who care about them, healthy loving relationships, decent nutritious food, all that kind of stuff. You may have all that, but still not feel like you’re living up to your own expectations for yourself. Or that life isn’t keeping its end of the bargain for a good, hard-working, decent person like you.
You’ve heard it before and I have, too: “You get what you deserve.” (Sometimes called “The Law of Karma.”)
But you may also have heard, “You don’t get what you deserve…you get what you negotiate.” (Dr. Chester L. Karrass, who, by the way, makes his living teaching people how to negotiate.) By which I presume he means, “You get what you work for.”
Which Do You Believe?
You can find out what you believe by considering how you feel about homeless people…or the poor in general, or people in any group that attracts your judgment: blondes, African Americans, BMW drivers, men in their 20s who have spent time in Syria, obese women, grown men who live with their mothers… Is it personal failures or just fate? What about in your own case?
This two-edged sword may be the sharpest when you point it at your own throat. If those “other” people are getting what they deserve, are you an innocent victim when things happen in your life? Or are you bringing it on yourself by your own actions – or lack of action? Or do you believe it’s all your fault and you’re not worthy of more?
How you answer this question will reveal how you see the world; whether you believe you are worthy of good in your life or not; whether you grow as a human being or stay stagnant and angry at the misfortunes that have befallen innocent lil’ you; and even what happens to you from here on out.