The man sleeping under the bridge has a name. The woman with the “Please Help” sign? She has a name, too.
They had childhood dreams. They were nervous when they went on their first date. They liked to sing along to the radio — really loud — when they were alone in the car.
But we don’t think about that — or we try not to. It’s easier to let our thoughts drift toward condemnation than it is to wrap our hearts around the fact that these children of God are part of our community. And to be clear, successful communities have shared value systems, and disparate communities value resources more than the people who make up the community.
Privilege is a trigger word so let’s change the word to “those of us who have resources,” and look at it from a different perspective that may help us change more than just the word, but also bring about a change of heart.
Those of us who have resources often use our relative affluence to insulate ourselves from the reality that the man under the bridge has to deal with every hour of the day. Maybe our resource advantage is air conditioning — or access to a bathroom. Maybe our advantage is being able to schedule an appointment to see a dentist and a doctor. Maybe our advantage is food.
But our relative affluence also has a subtle dark side. The man under the bridge and the woman with the sign make us feel very uncomfortable. We don’t like to be near them. They’re dirty, they probably smell, and they’re more than a little scary. So rather than give them a couple of dollars when we pull up at a stoplight, we avoid eye contact or pretend we’re talking on the phone.
We don’t engage at all. We don’t engage THEM at all.
We talk to our neighbors about THEM. We say things like “THEY need to get a job.” Or, “We sure don’t want THEM in our neighborhood.” Or, “Why don’t the police do something about THEM?”
His name is Bob.
Her name is Kristina.
— Doyle lives in Baton Rouge