I’m Real © Kathy Pinheiro 2012
I now have a home – humble, but a start. I’m working again, part time. I’m on my way. This time round, I’ll never make the mistake of thinking that homeless people are not real, or that they’re all the same.
I had been homeless for less than two months when a Globe and Mail article infuriated me, and taught me a lot. A well-meaning journalist had written a piece on poverty, and how our society does not deal decently with its most unfortunate members. The author made some sound recommendations. He did care. He had a social conscience, yet when discussing hunger, he said something like the following: “For you and me, hunger simply means the anticipation of a decent meal. Rarely is hunger an unpleasant experience.” You and me? It did not occur to him I might read the Globe – a publication geared to well-educated citizens. It did not occur to him that maybe, just maybe, there are homeless, hungry people who might read the Globe, or even Aristotle for that matter. In this author’s mind, I wasn’t there.
But I can’t say I’m any better. Only a few months prior, homeless people were bellow my radar. Generous by nature, I’d give them change, but no acknowledgement. They weren’t real human beings. They were clichés, stereotypes, and of course, they were all the same. You’re not a somebody when everyone reduces you to a handful of clichés, when each passer-by believes that they know exactly what you are. So now I was a nobody. After reading that article, I understood perfectly.
Once I owned house, and lived with my children. I had friends and family who now shun me and treat me like dirt. When I think of all the times these people came to me for help, it really hurts. It’s as though they don’t want to be reminded of my existence. Think of the reporter who really seemed to care about the homeless. In theory, he cared. In the realm of ideas, he was bang on, but even he did not have it in him to consider the possibility that he might be writing directly to the homeless. He was writing to his own kind, safe and cozy, and probably walked away feeling good about himself for having written a socially conscious article.
Yeah, as long as he doesn’t have to talk to me, see me, feel what I feel – and of course, touch me – he’s willing to be a big bundle of care.
Here’s a reality check: I exist. I can read, write and speak three languages fluently.
I am flesh and blood. I’m not just an idea.
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