Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

March 25, 2008

The great chasm

I used this analogy while talking to my friend Josh about our attempt at bringing homeless people over to our house. The ideas was to go pick up 2 or 3 homeless men or women (or a family) and bring them over to enjoy a pot roast we’d bought for half off. Like before, I assumed I could at least find a couple guys in the Village area, but first tried 3 other places. In the end, I didn’t bring anyone home, so we had a nice dinner with friends and played a game for a bit. Nobody said no, it’s just that I didn’t every find anyone to ask. Here are the reasons.

1. Centennial Park. I drove around looking for someone who was obviously homeless, then I guess my plan was to just go let them know that my wife and I had prepared a meal and we wanted to invite someone who didn’t have plans for dinner over. The only people I saw were two black men, one in mid 40’s probably and the other likely over 60. Though they were dressed poorly and similar to other homeless men I’ve been around, I didn’t want to assume they were homeless, and walk up and offer something to them. Being white, I felt like it could be seen as racial profiling.

2. Campus for Human Development. In Nashville, if you’re homeless and you want a place to stay, you can go to the Campus and try to get a ticket (at least during the colder months of the year). If you get a ticket, you will go to one of the many churches around town who offer their space through a program called Room at the Inn. When I drove up to the Campus, my hope was that I could find 2 or 3 people who didn’t get a ticket for that night and invite them over at least for a hot meal and a shower / new clothes if they so desired. There were probably 100 people standing around as I pulled in. I asked a couple of guys what the process was, and they let me know how the giving of tickets would go down. Then I told a man who worked and lived there what I wanted to do, so he took me inside to the lady behind the counter. She was in charge, I guess. Before I finished telling her what I wanted to do, she was saying how that I should never ever invite a homeless person into my home, because it’s just not safe. When I suggested that I might try to find someone that I already knew, she continued by demanding she would never in good conscience recommend that, even if it was a homeless person I know. My spirits sunk, and I drove on. The tickets had not been given out yet, and I didn’t want to invite anyone who had the possibility of getting in at the Room at the Inn.

3. The Academy. This is an addiction recovery program where men live and learn new skills or trades. I’ve met about 7 of them so far through volunteer eye exams at my clinic. One of them is writing a book about his experience there, and asked for permission to write about me, so I’d already mentioned to him the possibility of coming over for dinner sometime. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the number to the Academy with me, and I drove around for probably 30 minutes unable to find it.

4. Hillsboro Village, where so far we’ve been 100% successful finding guys who wanted a free home cooked meal, was almost completely deserted. I drove home, alone, back to my wife and my friends…people just like me.

There exists this great chasm that seems to exist in order to keep people within their own class (and skin color, and nationality, and religion, and….).

It seems widest where it divides the very rich and the very poor.

It’s filled with fear, with thoughts of safety, with prejudice, with comfort, and with concerns for public image along with desires to impress peers.

Spanning it are just a few bridges like interracial marriages, church congregations of many different classes and colors, and occasional working situations that make truly equal black and white, native American and Asian, male and female, Christian and Muslim.

Its steep cliffs are frightening, enough to constantly deter one from reaching the distant banks…even for someone who truly desires to cross it.

My hope is that I can keep fighting it. To keep valid concerns such as safety in mind, but not let that keep me from doing what I feel is right.

Any thoughts?

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