This photo haunts me. How are the Hartford area homeless families that once slept in these beds coping today? Where are they? Where is home?
Without awareness of history’s details and context we miss points that may make a significant difference in how we relate to each other; how we welcome or exclude each other; and how we enact laws and promote behaviors that either treat everyone fairly, with dignity and justice, or discriminate against certain people leading to unfair treatment, degrading and devoid of the justice our country promises to all Americans.
Indifference manifests itself in ignorance, silence and acceptance. Turning our backs to the injustices suffered by the marginalized, vulnerable, and victimized in our local communities and around the world is a weak and heartless admission that the status quo is just fine with us when it doesn’t affect our lives directly — at least not yet. And that’s a very big “yet” because unchecked turmoil can arrive anytime at our doorsteps regardless of who we think we are.
Being on the outside looking in during this joyous time of year can be disheartening and debilitating. So in the same right spirit, donations are collected to share our abundance with neighbors less fortunate, unable to afford the right gift at the right price. It’s a generous and caring tradition we encourage and rightly applaud every year. However, many parents desperate to buy their children presents, but unable to do so, swallow their pride to accept handouts. Ultimate parental embarrassment often occurs in front of their children when well-intentioned gift-bearing volunteers arrive at their door on charity visits. So what to do?
Add one more gift to your list, the gift of dignity.
Divisiveness is a weapon of mass destruction. It destroys families, communities, and countries. It’s a plague. It sickens, weakens, and often kills its infected hosts who refuse to realize, until its too late, that their ignorant assumptions of someone or something not of their tribe — the other, the stranger, the religion, or the ideology — can lead to mass social destruction if we put fear and hatred reflexively ahead of listening and understanding.
Our natural rush to respond to disasters brings out the collective best in us to help each other survive and recover. It unifies us. Let’s capitalize on this unifying spirit to mitigate the occurrence of self-inflicted disasters. Disasters caused by how we may choose to negotiate international diplomacy; to send our military into harms way; to address economic growth and security; to understand science; and to enforce the rights and fair treatment of the abused and vulnerable. Being passive observers won’t do. We must rush to help our government focus on creating a common good that is meant for all of us. To avoid self-inflicted disasters our leaders must choose wisely, and choose our leaders wisely we must.
Groups of Hartford area people focused on improving the lives of the less fortunate have been advocating for collaboration. As they have in a Hartford housing project, they want to show what can happen when advocacy leads to actual action.