by Kenneth Justice
~ Yesterday I walked perilously close to the edge of an argument with a homeless person, “Dude, I just don’t get it….the wind-chill factor brings the temperature down to -20 degrees and this still doesn’t make you think that its time to get a job and change your life” I asked him
“Kenneth, I already told you; I’m sick of all the dumb tough stuff in life. I’m sick of cell phones and Facebook and everything else that people in this damn country are obsessed with…..I’m tired of triviality” he said
Perhaps some arguments are worth having; sometimes people really want to listen to what we have to say and as long as the argument can be done in a respectful manner…..sometimes there is a place for an argument. However, yesterday was not one of those times. The young homeless man I was talking to (he couldn’t have been more than 25 years old) was not interested in my opinions…..and each time I pressed the topic he got a bit pissed off…..so finally I changed the subject.
The weather has been incredibly intense here in the Midwest recently as we’re experiencing some of the coldest bouts of freezing temperatures and its been coupled with more snow than I’ve ever seen in my life. So yesterday I took the day off from work and ended up spending most of the afternoon hanging out with a bunch of the homeless people at the local café. It was far too cold for them to be outside so they were packing into the coffee shops and café’s to warm up.
I simply don’t get it. I don’t understand why someone would want to be homeless in the midst of -20 degree weather.
I’m well aware of the reality that some people have become homeless as no fault of their own. I’ve written about it many times and my heart goes out to the many men and women who’ve lost their jobs, houses, and found themselves in circumstances beyond their control. Of these people we have a responsibility to reach out and help them; to feed them, clothe them, employ them, and help them get back on their feet.
But what about this young man? A guy who simply doesn’t want to work…..who doesn’t want responsibility….what is society’s response to this young man supposed to be?
I simply don’t know.
We talked for quite a bit and before we reached the point that he started to get annoyed with me…..I had learned;
—) a couple years ago he quit a well paying job in construction out in Texas
—) one day he simply decided he had enough of ‘life’ and decided to become homeless
—) he has a family of 4 siblings (3 of which run their own companies) but he doesn’t want to work for them or have anything to do with them beyond a random phone conversation once in awhile
—) he will accept anything that people give him; money, food, clothes, etc.
I guess what bothers me about this young man is that with the temperatures dropping to the negative digits……the chance of him freezing to death is a very real possibility.
“Sometimes I sleep under bridges and overpasses, sometimes I find other homeless people and we sit around fires that we have in buckets just like you see in the movies….sometimes I can’t sleep all night because I’m so cold” he said
Is the guy mentally ill? Perhaps…..but too often I feel that we as a society use the whole ‘mental illness’ label as some kind of cure-all moniker that is supposed to explain things that are simply unexplainable.
G.K. Chesterton observed that Western Culture has a habit of “exhaustively describing a social sickness, and then propounding a social drug“. In other words; we think that everything has an easy ‘answer’ or that there is a ‘drug’ to cure everything.
Unfortunately, life is a little bit more complex and some people (like this young man) simply don’t want to be apart of human society…..at least he doesn’t want to have to work a job. Sure, he’s more than happy to accept free money, food, and any other free assistance that people offer him……..but ask him to work a job; he was very clear with me on that issue; “Kenneth, there’s no way in hell I ever want to work any kind of job that requires commitment. I want to be able to come and go as I please” he said
Perhaps I am wrong…..but the longer we talked the more I began feeling that the young man simply needed a gentle (but firm) kick in the seat of his pants……yet I was also getting the vibe that his parents (and others) had already tried that tactic….and it didn’t work.
I suppose the average person glances at someone like this young man and moves on with their life…..but for me, I can’t help but wonder if this guy is going to die tonight, or tomorrow, or some day soon. How long will he make it in -20 degree weather? I simply don’t know.
What am I supposed to say to him? Yelling, arguing…those things don’t really work…do they?
I really need another cup of coffee now
P.s. If you haven’t heard I’m going on a national and worldwide tour of over 100 coffee houses, check out my link and stay tuned for dates and locations
Categories: Culture & Society