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Holding Ourselves Accountable

A friend of mine called me this morning and talked about a wonderful effort he participated in on New Year’s Day. A group of volunteers organized a coat and blanket give-away (among other things). He stated that it was a great event to participate in and set the year off right. It made him feel good and clearly made a difference in the lives of the individuals who are experiencing homelessness as well.  In the midst of all that great effort he saw small things that just seemed a bit off. He and I then asked lots of soul searching questions that we just couldn’t answer immediately.

Why when it was so cold out did we make people without gloves stand in line to get them rather than go to them or bring them a hot cup of cider?

Why don’t we do a better job serving the people who are struggling?

Have we forgotten that they are someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, etc.?

When we do the right thing in helping, do we make sure we execute it in a way that respects everyone’s humanity?

How do we help so that it is not about making ourselves feel better but also to make sure that the people we are helping get to have free choice and dignity?

Are we doing enough to hold our government, our community, our neighbors and ourselves accountable?

I suppose the next logical question is Why? Does the difficulty in facing these questions lie in the fact that anyone homeless is a reflection of those of us who are not…and that reflection is too painful to see. When you have more, it is easy to want to keep it. Ignoring others who do not have enough is a way to avoid such pain. My guess is that those who have been homeless or worried about losing their housing may be better at facing such “perceived” failure. In reality, whose failure is it – theirs or ours as a society?

With so many people living paycheck to paycheck and others having excess, how do we create a healthier and more balanced community? These are loaded concepts about racial justice, economic justice, equity and humanity. As my friend says there are too many negative “–isms” out there which lead to control and oppression. Let’s figure out how to use our hands to lift up others in this New Year. As we do so, I know we will lift ourselves and our community up at the same time.

Beth Benner

Executive Director