A while ago I had the opportunity to have lunch with a very bright, charming person. Shannan is the Editor of Street Speech Newspaper in Columbus, Ohio. Street Speech is part of the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless. This is a person who has seen despair, and hopelessness. She has decided to be the voice for those who have trouble being heard. A difficult career choice.
Behind the bright, sparkling eyes, and the quick, engaging smile, though, there was a worrying concern. She understands more than most the chaos and cruelty inflicted by the whims and caprices of the government. She knows how a decimal place to a politician can mean disaster at the level of the street. She spoke, softly and hesitantly, about the right for self-respect. It was a gentle voice filled with sorrow talking about the doubt surrounding the future of the people she has struggled so tirelessly to help.
My wife works in a high school, and there is a class for handicapped children in the building. One of the girls in the class has a job she goes to every day. She waits for the bus with my wife. They have become “friends.” This girl tells my wife (with enthusiasm) about her day, her weekend, her family, her life. My wife is a good listener. One day she was talking, happily, and turned ashen, and cold. She asked my wife if she had seen the news stories about the clowns. She was terrified the clowns would do harm to her little brother, her grandmother. She was terrified. Nobody targeted that poor little girl, but consequences are never so neatly planned.
In the coming years we will see some changes, and most of us will muddle through. Somehow, most of us will get by. But, there are people whose lives are not stable, whose future is shaky and small changes can drop them precipitously to a place they have been fighting to avoid. And there are those clinging tenuously to the edges of society. It is there the ax will fall the hardest. The safety net is sometimes the difference between sleeping under a roof and a bridge.
Yes, the government needs to wean people from state subsistence, and has a responsibility to tax payers, but it is always the weakest who are supposed to bear the brunt of the sacrifice. Think, for a minute, of the potential savings if all of the monstrously successful and profitable companies were forced to give up their weekly allowance from the fed. It would be like a license to print money.
I have heard it said, “it can’t get any worse,” but they are probably not giving themselves the credit deserved. With just a little effort it could surely get much worse. Of course, since the people in question are so easily overlooked, so easily ignored, so uncomfortable to acknowledge hardly anybody will notice.
As the surrealism of the situation drains and the reality becomes inescapable it is important to remember that those with the least have the most to lose. It becomes increasingly important to help. Find a shelter, find an outreach program, and donate. Better yet, donate and volunteer, there is never enough money, and there is never enough help. If you don’t know where or how contact me and I will help you find a place. Don’t think you can’t make a difference, you can, don’t think a little doesn’t help, it does.