A disheveled man shuffles down the street pushing an overflowing cart filled with his worldly goods. I try not to stare, but I wonder. How did he get there? Where is his mother? His father? His sisters? Brothers? Aunts? Uncles? Is there a grandmother or grandfather out there somewhere?
Family should be the cushion against being destitute. It often isn’t for various reasons. Some people blow through their family’s generosity by refusing to take responsibility for themselves. Some have suffered a series of setbacks, and somewhere along the line the ‘system’ has let them down. Some have made a series of unfortunate choices. I can feel the hair raising on the back of my neck because my readers are clamoring against the idea that the homeless are their own worst enemy. It seems so callous to make a judgement against someone when you don’t have all the facts.
To be fair, I have never been homeless or had a member of my family experience homelessness. I happen to know, however, that my first tendency when things go wrong is not to take responsibility immediately, rather it is to blame someone else. Usually I blame those (or he) that is closest to me. Then, when I can no longer sustain that lie, I turn on myself which often means I have no extra love to give to others because I am hurting myself, beating myself up, or nursing my wounds.
I am my own worst enemy. I suspect I am not alone, not a human rarity.
In an ideal world, humans who share DNA take care of each other. They weather the ups and downs of life by sharing, by putting up with each other’s failures with mercy and truth. They acknowledge when they’ve wronged each other. They experience the ebb and flow of life by supporting one another. When it works it is beautiful, even though often messy.
We have a broken system because we are broken people.
And I believe the solution is as micro-effective as one relationship at a time. Everyone is part of a family somewhere.
Perhaps you have someone in your family who is difficult to love. Perhaps you are that person. Take responsibility for yourself this second. There is no magical solution that is more glamorous than this. If there is, I haven’t found it.
You are a part of a family somewhere, even if DNA isn’t the common denominator. Do not isolate yourself, or alienate others. It will not end well. This is the moment in time you have the opportunity to do something good. Never underestimate the power of one small good decision, or the power of one bad one.