Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Homelessness: Questions & Answers

A few weeks ago I asked my bloggy-friend Jen-- who works at a homeless shelter and routinely makes an amazing difference in the lives of her fellow human beings-- if she'd write a post about the ways we can teach our children about homelessness.

Lately my children have noticed people-- the man standing with the cardboard sign at our freeway exit; the woman selling Real Change at our neighborhood supermarket; the man sitting on the sidewalk asking for money-- and they've wondered:

"What's that guy doing standing there?"

"What's the sign say?"

"Why doesn't he have any money?"

"What happened to his home?"

"Can't he go live with his Mama & Papa?"

"Where will he sleep tonight when it's dark?"

"Can we go home and get the dollars from our piggy bank and
bring it to him?"

"Do you think he'd like to come stay with us?"

These are hard questions. Ones to which I have no easy answer.

Jen doesn't either.

But she suggests several ways in which we can "find compassion for others instead of judgment, action instead of pity, drive instead of fear."

And really, that's a good place to start.


slouching mom said...

I'm so glad you asked her the questions you did! Thank you!

jen said...

i'm working on #2 now...stay tuned.

and thank you.

Seattle Mamacita said...

so glad you posed the questions and so glad Jen wrote the post

Ally said...

You rock, Jen. Can't wait for #2. Ha, that just cracked me up. No, I'm not constipated.

KarenP said...

What a great post. It's so important to talk about these things with our kids while they're young. The elementary teacher in me can't resist recommending a powerful children's book called Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (NOT to be confused with the movie by the same name about the girl who flies alongside geese in her airplane!). This book is about a young boy and his father who are homeless and live as unobtrusively as possible in an airport, because "anything's better than living on the street." The book is geared for ages 5-9 or so and should lead to some great discussions with your child. (This comment cross-posted on Jen's blog)

alicia said...

Great post and excellent suggestions. I find it difficult to expose my children to poverty because we live in such a "comfortable" suburban neighborhood. I plan to search for the local food bank to see if we can volunteer. I'm sure there are people in need; they just aren't right there in front of our faces. Unfortunately this makes it too easy to be complacent and negligent of our responsibilities to take care of others.

painted maypole said...

i loved jen's post (thanks for asking the questions that got her going!) and I love your kids questions. I hate that we live in a world where they have to ask them, but they are so, so sweet, this wanting to take care of the people they see. Nurture that, and as jen says, teach them compassion instead of fear. Just think of the amazing things you can do together with that kind of compassion.

Julie Pippert said...

I'm glad you asked that...and glad she answered.

thailandchani said...

That was a really good post by Jen.. and one of the best things about it is that she showed (reading between the lines) how social choices lead to homelessness.

I'm glad she addressed it so thoroughly because there are too many people scratching only the surface.

I'm glad you asked it.. because it all leads to further education for all of us. :)



bgirl said...

perhaps, i've totally lost my mind...but i swear i commented on this post..i really did, but now it's gone. weird.

i echo all those before thought provoking and action oriented, that's why i love you!

Worker Mommy said...

Thanks for this. These are questions that inevitably come up and as a parent you want to be so careful about how you answer and want to make sure your child knows empathy and compassion for those less fortunate.

You're an inspiration Ally - as always and thanks to Jen too!

Lori said...

Ally- This is so weird! I just came over here after publishing a post that deals with this very issue! I look forward to checking out what Jen has to say. Thanks for this!


Oh, The Joys said...

Thank you for asking her to write it, it was great.


momomax said...

homelessness is something that surrounds me and confounds me daily. I am paralyzed when I try to do something about it. The intense urge to help the person in front of you who finally displays so much need that your jaded shield falters makes it even more confusing as to how to help. It's not my immediate priority, but it is devastating to realize how little you can do for the person who is truly lost and sick and in such dire straits. I'm glad you started a dialogue. Maybe it will get me turned around enough to see that starting with the people you CAN help is at least starting.

Tranquila Seeker said...

Great questions posed to an apparently great person. :)

I firmly believe that dialogue forms beliefs from which action will flow. Thank you for encouraging that dialogue and getting people thinking.

Eugene has many many more homeless people (or maybe they are just more obvious) than Nampa/Boise or Walla Walla/Pendleton. Living in this new environment in which homelessness is more visible (one or more homeless people at nearly every major intersection) makes one think. How can I help? What needs to change in the system? How should I think of these people? And all the other great questions you posted. Thanks. I'm looking forward to post #2. You will let us know when it is available, right!? :)

Unc said...

From New York to New Orleans we've got to make a change...