“You are better than no one,” the minstrel had proclaimed, “and no one’s better than you.” — Bob Dylan
If you’ve spent time reading comments below online news articles, or overheard conversations in coffee shops, or even been presented with throw away phrases at social gatherings, one would get the impression that the general public (whatever that means) generally feel that people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or similar neighbourhoods in other cities fall into two distinct categories: either they’re just not working hard enough, or they’re beyond help. But it’s easy to compartmentalize.
After working over 20 years in this field, the reality that I have seen is human beings — not just folks experiencing homeless or poverty, but all of us — live in between those stereotypical extremes. We all have better days, and worse days. Every one of us needs some kind of help at some point in our lives, and the reverse also is true. And I don’t mean a Facebook ‘like, I’m talking about real, tangible generosity. Lawrence Scanlan writes about this at the Open Democracy website, spending a month with 12 different charities for a year. Have a read.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by work, relationships, by life, and to shut down at the end of the day, or the whole weekend. This is necessary sometimes.
But sometimes, we can be generous; with our time, our money, and most importantly with the way we think of others.
If we think of others as neither less than or better than, then we’ve changed the conversation. If we’re generous to others, then we remove the burden of them having to ask.