When I’m tucked in at night, I thank Heaven for my cosy bed in the safety of my home. On cold winter nights, I would lie awake listening to the wind howling about the building and the rain pelting against the windows. I would shudder at the thought of not having a roof over my head and snuggle deeper into the warm quilt, albeit suffering a pang of conscience.
For I know that there are people out there who will not sleep in a warm bed tonight. Neither will they eat a proper meal nor take a hot shower.
We live in an age in which material progress is rapid but there are people who cannot keep up with the fast pace. They can barely make ends meet and are caught up in a daily struggle for survival. Sadly, they are forced to lower their expectations about their standard of living. They learn to live on a shoestring in the hope of putting aside enough money for the monthly rent that would save them from being thrown out on the streets.
Stories of people on the brink of homelessness are mushrooming in the local newspapers. Think of the destitute woman with young children who have no place to call home, roam the streets all day long – until it’s time to return to a night shelter where, at least, they could count on a proper meal and a bed to sleep in.
The very thought of trading places with the homeless provides a reality check. It doesn’t stop me from asking why they are not seeking some form of employment though. Perhaps they lack the skills and, therefore, miss job opportunities because they cannot afford to lose social benefits if they register for training. Perhaps a chronic illness holds them back from being able to take on a regular job. Or perhaps they cannot find anyone to mind their children while they are at work.
They are stuck in rut a with a pittance of spending money, just like those who are forced to live in converted basement garages because it’s the only type of rent they can afford. These people have been stripped of their dignity. They may have our sympathy but that doesn’t ease their suffering. What they really need is a solution to start over and find gainful employment that would help them recover some notion of self-respect.
Whether the homeless brought their troubles on themselves, or are simply victims of circumstance, our compassion and understanding should come before judgement. It’s easy to point fingers at everyone else whilst conveniently forgetting that we too form part of a society that looks the other way.
At this time, during Holy Week, we could learn a lot about compassion by focusing our thoughts on one person and one mission, Jesus and the Cross. And tonight, in our beds, safe beneath the covers, we would do well to reflect on what we’ve got to be thankful for.