We speak about being free-thinking individuals who support equality and human rights. We cry out against discrimination and injustice. We try to uphold the law because by breaking it, we are committing a crime. We openly discuss our morals, our beliefs, and our values. We can do all these things… because we can afford to.
People fighting, people swearing. Something to do with money. I see punches aimed at someone’s head and connecting with the target. I hear cries of pain.
I walk and the snow is blinding. While a homeless person is huddling in the nook of a building’s doorway to seek refuge from the flurries, I’m thinking about my home, and my electric blanket. He says “Hi!” and I return his greeting, pushing away feelings of wariness brought about by stigma.
I see another lady. She is crouched and leaning against the wall of a convenience store. Half of her head is shaved and she gives me a weak smile. While she is shivering in the cold, I’m worried that I’ll get mugged because I carry a backpack that may contain something of value.
I’m not proud of these thoughts, which indirectly contribute to the negative stigma these people face. My understanding is not as great as I’d like and as a result, I fall prey to fear. I’ve been taught that showing fear makes you an easy target, so because of that, I’ve learned to cover it up with expressions of indifference or intimidating hostility.
What do these people see in us?
The person who looks down on people who steal, has never been in a position where stealing meant another week of food and, maybe, of shelter.
The person who looks disdainfully and condescendingly at couples who divorce, probably has never been the victim of an emotionally abusive relationship. What about those who criticize these people for staying in their relationship, when these are only still in it because they don’t have the financial means to survive outside of it?
What are morals? Today, I realized that they are something that can be bought with money–not directly, but by having enough or everything in abundance.
Let’s keep reminding ourselves how fortunate we are and to count our blessings. Not only that, but to not let the comfort of our living situations disable our ability to understand (or at least try our best) why some people have to resort to means generally viewed as unscrupulous, in order to survive.
Someday, that might be us huddling in the doorway of a building to avoid the abrasive winds. Someday, that might be us shivering and leaning against a building, falling prey to the condescending and disdainful gazes of people who can’t understand how we got to where we are.