I wear a backpack. I need to carry my shopping because I don’t drive. This doesn’t mean I’m homeless.
Recently I’ve been treated differently and once refused service in a local business until they knew I had money. I’ve always found the people and businesses of Parksville to be friendly and helpful so it surprises me if I’m presumed homeless and snubbed.
People without homes must be getting this treatment sometimes, too. Some homeless have been abused. Some are youth. Others have drug, alcohol or mental health issues.
So do some people in homes. Those in homes can hide their troubles, people living outdoors cannot. We don’t know their backstories. If we did it might kick-start our compassion.
Years ago I was busking in Winnipeg. A mentally challenged homeless man walked by me again and again, unable to look me in the eye but interested in what I was doing. He wore a ragged bathrobe. Then he bent over my banjo case and started toward the bit of change. I had to decide what to do if he were to take it. Although I, too, was hungry and homeless I could busk elsewhere. He needed it more.
It was the right decision to stay silent, because when he extended his shaky hand it opened and two quarters dropped out. He gave me everything he had.
We all have hidden depths. There is no easy solution. Some are hard to house but they are alive and among us and need our support. We don’t necessarily have to give away money but friendly acknowledgment when passing on the street never hurts. Disdain is not an answer.
What if change starts that simply — with a nod and a smile.