I was walking downtown with some friends recently when we passed a homeless man who asked for some food. We had almost passed the man when one of my friends asked him what he would like to eat, and bought him dinner. How many times have you walked past people on the street who were asking for money or food? Did you ever stop to give what you had or did you just keep walking? I am sure that a number of people, including myself, have walked past someone and said, "Sorry, I can't help you," when we knew we could have given them something. Every time I do this, I walk away with a sick feeling in my stomach, thinking of how I would feel if I were in their shoes and was dismissed. So I began to wonder why we ignore people who are in a less fortunate position than ourselves. A reason that some people propose for not giving money or food to the homeless is that we have become desensitized to others' misfortune since we see it so often -- we can walk past the homeless on the street as if they are just a part of the landscape. What would we do if we were in their situation? Most people might say that they would go to a homeless shelter to get help. So to those people, I ask, "Do you then give money to homeless shelters, since you would be a patron of their services if you were ever in that situation?" Remarkably most people still say, "No." They say their money is tight enough and they just can't afford it. People aren't really desensitized but choose not to see or consider the plights of others because we don't want to give away any of our money. The argument of desensitization is a convenient cop out that people have come up with in order to justify their personal shortcoming -- greed. I think I have found the real reason behind our "desensitization." As humans, we search for ways to maintain power. And as long as we have someone who is worse off than we are, we feel better about ourselves. We can always say, "Look at that poor soul." The fact that we partially hold other peoples' fates in our hands, in some sadistic way, gives us peace of mind that our lives will not be disturbed. We view this as a form of power and no one ever really wants to give up power -- no matter how much we say, we want to empower people to help themselves. That is why many people don't give to the homeless or to homeless shelters. Everyone realizes homeless shelters are barely able to afford the people who live there now. When we don't give to money or help to these shelters we are ensuring that there is always a lower class of people other than ourselves. If we gave them support, we would be giving them the needed resources to empower the people at shelters with the possibility of their rising to our level. In theory, if all homeless people were not homeless anymore -- but rose from homelessness to poverty -- that would put everyone else in society one step closer to being the lowest class of society. Americans in general have lost sight of the value in our fellow man who has fallen on hard times. And to be quite frank, we should be ashamed of ourselves. When we do make an effort, we often do it just to say that we did something good for someone else and we want to hear our friends tell us what a wonderful person we are. More and more, people are striving for power by hoarding money and property and we forget about all the people we have allowed to be disregarded on our way to the top. I am not saying that all people are greedy and self-righteous. Nor do I think that we sit and contemplate ways by which we will maintain power on daily basis. I think the ability to maintain power is something that is bred into our idea of success. We need to re-evaluate the reasons for which we give, or do not give, to help each other. Don't pretend to be desensitized anymore. We all have our shortcomings -- the beggar has no job, the homeless have no home, and we have no generosity.Comments powered by Disqus
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