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Adventures in Homelessness Mindsets

I’m a regular reader of around 20 different blogs. One of my favorites is James Brausch.

James posted a challenge entitled, “A Mindset Challenge.” He’s challenging folks to interact with homeless folks and do something like give them some socks and report back their experience.

It reminds me of 2 stories:

During college, I belonged to a church group that prepared and gave out sack lunches once a week early in the morning. We would making something like 100 and go until we ran out. It was a good experience. It definitely worked on my perspective.

One time that we went down to a day labor place and a guy actually asked me for my socks. I think it was fall and cold by Austin standards. I thought about it and realized I had more socks back at my dorm and he didn’t have any. I sat down on one of the benches and discretely took off my socks and handed them to him.

It wasn’t a burden to go sockless that day. If anything, it helped to remind me how much I really had going for me already.

Another experience I’d add to the challenge as being instructive is to hang out with a homeless person sometime. Here’s the second story:

Shortly after graduation, I was driving around and saw two homeless girls that were around my age panhandling at an intersection. I wasn’t in a hurry so I stopped by the nearest McDonalds and got them the healthiest, biggest burger I could find.

I parked near the intersection and walked over and handed them the food. They both seemed pretty hungry. One was adequately appreciative and the other immediately began complaining that there wasn’t any secret Big Mac sauce.

In any event, I wanted to find out why these girls were homeless. I thought surely they had some friends or family somewhere that could help. So I sat down at the intersection with them and had a conversation.

I was surprised to hear that it sounded like they wanted to be homeless. There was a story about avoiding the 9 to 5 thing and raising traditional families. I was right there with them on that. Instead, they travel around on whatever money people give them.

I wasn’t able to understand how that led the the thought that it was better to be homeless. They probably wanted me to go away so I’m sure that wasn’t the entire story.

The other interesting thing was the comments we got by passing motorists. These girls weren’t walking up to anyone’s window and talking to them. We were merely sitting there. And still we heard a lot of hateful things directed at us. I think I was more surprised by that than the girls.

I realize that each person has their own reasons for things. I think I saw a statistic that something like 2/3 of homeless people are military veterans. I can understand that as a veteran myself. Sometimes the civilian world seems like Disneyland and you wonder what the point is. Is this the American dream we’re killing so many people to protect? Why not spend your whole day sitting on a milk crate? It makes as much sense as some of the other stuff we did in the military.

That said, I think it’s good to get some perspective and realize there’s more going on than your own immediate issues. Bravo, James.