By Mike Lander on
I must have been about eight years old when I had bad feelings that someday I might be homeless if my life did not work out for some reason. An irrational fear to be sure, but perhaps peniaphobia (fear of poverty) or kakkorraphiaphobia (fear of failure) come closest in describing these fears
As the only child of a broken marriage I had a lot of time to think, maybe too much time. As the years passed the fears did too. The pressures of school and pleasing my elders may have caused these irrational fears in the first place. Success in school brought confidence. As time passed everything seemed to work out well in school, then the military and later in business.
Failure is really never more than a paycheck away for many people. Those who work on commission feel this pressure intently. No sales equals no paycheck. One day, as bills mounted, we were saved by a home equity line of credit. The wolf was almost at the door and this was scary stuff.
Today, my family is fortunate not to have any of these financial pressures for the foreseeable future. However, the Great Recession has forced many Americans into seeking public assistance in the form of food stamps, less expensive medical insurance and even trips to the local food pantry.
Almost every week I am approached either in a shopping mall parking lot or a gas station for a handout by some unfortunate soul who is down on his luck or so he says. My feeling is that if he has to ask for money he is telling the truth. They come in wheelchairs, on crutches, with walkers and with obvious medical issues. If it’s a scam it’s a good one. Years ago I probably would have turned them down, but with age comes compassion.
Am I my brother’s keeper? If not him maybe me! With the passage of time loved ones are no longer here. Cheating death several times can also change your world view in a hurry. When I meet St. Peter at the gate will he remind me that I should have given some money to that man in a wheelchair, but I just passed him by? Is it not the point of it all to pay it forward?
Finally, when we give donations to our favorite charities the great majority of them use most of the money to pay administrative costs. Salaries, advertising and related expenses must be paid. If I give a dollar to a homeless man I am certain that he receives 100% of that dollar. If he chooses to spend the dollar foolishly then that is his rational decision for once I give him money I cannot tell him how to spend it.
There have been countless attempts to document the homeless and this essay is just one of many. Our point is to make the situation of the homeless visible. If you choose to pass by these people remember that homelessness may be no more than a paycheck away.