Today, against my better judgment, I had a debate with a friend about the homeless population.
That’s usually not a good idea if you want to keep your friends, but sometimes I’m impulsive. Go figure.
Her opinions were not unusual, and are probably shared by the majority of Americans.
“I work two jobs, why should I give my money to someone that is capable of getting a job of their own?”
“If I give them money, how do I know they won’t use it for drugs or alcohol?”
“Giving them money will only encourage them to not get a job, and live off of handouts.”
I guess I can’t imagine a person choosing to live on the street, and stand out in the cold and heat begging strangers for money, day after day. It seems like that would be much harder than working at the Home Depot.
And people with addictions…I suppose I subscribe to the disease model of addiction. At some point, it stops being a choice. And I have to wonder, what kind of abuse, neglect, or damaging life history does someone have to drive them to addiction that leaves them homeless?
Mostly I think, who am I to judge others?
Everyone who meets my son assumes he is a neurotypical child. He doesn’t look like he has a disability. There’s no wheelchair, vacant stare, or obvious stimming behavior. But it’s there.
It’s there when he screams because the sound of the hairdryer is overwhelming.
It’s there when he becomes agitated that we have used an alternate name for something, like calling a motorcycle a “chopper.” He becomes more and more agitated as he demands that we “call it a motorcycle, don’t call it a chopper. It’s not a chopper, it’s a motorcycle.”
Someday my husband and I will be gone. We don’t have much family, and Connor will need to make his own way in life. What if his disability keeps him from being a functional adult? What if he can’t hold down a job, and meet life’s responsibilities?
What if his stubbornness, independence and refusal to follow rules prevents him from being able to accept help, by living in a group home, or receiving assisted living?
What if he ends up on the street?
I didn’t tell my friend this, but these are my worst fears, the thoughts that keep me up at night.
He could be the one that causes someone to say, “he’s healthy, there’s no reason he can’t get a job.”
I don’t know what other parents do with this fear. Do they push it out of their minds, in the interest of moving forward? Do they have enough family that they don’t worry about the worst case scenario?
But the bigger question, larger than my fear for my child, is what has happened to human compassion?
What has happened to love and kindness for our fellow man?
And what will I tell my son when he asks me about homeless people?