What do you and I both have in common with a homeless man or woman? It's simple. WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS.
The homeless are humans, which makes them just like you and me. The only difference? They have to wear their broken pieces on the outside, while we mask our brokenness in our work, families, friends and material things. We don't have to endure the effect of our wrong choices because we get to go home at night and start again the next morning. Our bed isn't made out of whatever we can find. Our food doesn't come from a trashcan or the back of a van that someone cared enough to share.
I pray I will never know the shame that is carried by a mother who has to tuck her children in to sleep in the backseat of her van or how low a person can feel when he reaches the point of not having food to eat or a roof over his head. That's why I founded Project Compassion, NFP as a way to provide compassion and hope to these individuals and show the community that even though a homeless individual appears different on the outside, we are the same. All humans require food, clothing, comfort and, believe it or not, compassion too.
Who am I to have something to share with someone in need and hold it from them? Who am I to not share the things I have worked hard for with someone who lacks a skill or is struggling because they made a bad decision?
I find myself thinking of the many bad decisions I have made and realizing it was the grace of God that saved me from having to sleep in a box at 19 when my mother suddenly died and I was left to be a "grown-up." It was the grace of God that kept me and my son from living in my car after I would suddenly quit a job and not think about the consequences.
Sure, it's easy to forget that we have all made choices that could have caused us to have very different outcomes in life because we managed to bounce back. We made it through. We survived our storm.
Speaking to homeless women, I always ask the question, "How did you get here?" The answer is often summed up the same -- "Life." There was one bad decision after another and no safety net or proper life skill to help them understand how to turn it around, leaving them with no other choice but to sleep on the streets or live in a car.
To be homeless does not mean you are less of a human being. It means you are a stronger survivor! Those who are homeless may lack the life skills and material things necessary to survive by the standards of society (house, car, an outstanding career), but they do have the necessary skills to survive in conditions that I don't think any school or family structure could teach us. Being homeless brings a resilience that I am not sure I will ever possess.
Project Compassion, NFP raises the awareness that we are all blessed to be the Givers and not the Receivers and, most importantly, that when you see a man or a woman living on the streets, yes, they are homeless, yes, they are poor, but they are still human.
This post was brought to you by L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth, an initiative started in 2005 that honors 10 amazing volunteers combatting disease, poverty, sex trafficking and addiction with $10,000 grants each year. Go to WomenofWorth.com to read their stories.