Cedric sat in my chair, waiting patiently for his Mock-Interview. He was well dressed from head to toe, and had the look and speech of someone thoughtful and well educated. It was my second week at the LegUp, and I still had rarely encountered our clients. He smiled the whole interview-this was his final test before the much anticipated graduation- and he knew he was nailing it.
As we went through the interview, I came to learn that Cedric had come into homelessness due to health reasons, and that he had previously worked in finance management, for 20 years. So, how was he homeless? How could that possible happen to a tax-paying community member?
Because life is tumultuous. That’s why.
We so often assume the faces of the homeless are dirty, weathered, and weary- or worse we associate homelessness with mental illness, irresponsibility, and drug abuse. This is often times, (very often) simply not the case. While there are those out there who are far gone from what we expect and accept as a culture and community, most (85% of the population) are simply experiencing a bump in their life story. Life is difficult, and sometimes it has unforeseen penalties, obstacles, and trials. The people who seek out the LegUp are folks who are just like the rest of us. They have families. They have pets! They have a need for hope…
Having learned about the trials and catastrophic loss Cedric experienced, and that of each person who has walked through our doors, I find hope redefined. These brave people are strong: they choose faith when they’ve lost everything, optimism when they’re at rock bottom, and strive boldly forward when life and society seem to be working against them.
Their stories are amazing.
The challenge to you, is to break the oppression of judgement on people’s stories. Give hope a chance, and the next time you see a person who’s experiencing homelessness, don’t give them pity or condemnation. They are simply in a valley of their life. Tomorrow it could be you that they in turn help… Treat the homeless with the same respect you would your grandmother, your boss, or your pastor. By simply looking, you never know a person’s struggle, you never learn their story. I challenge you to face your opinions, ask questions, and be open to connecting with someone who you do not perceive as “like” yourself.
Find the story, and then find hope.