Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Δ U ♥
Translation: change through love.
I’ll apologize now for the emotion-invoking picture. Not the way I usually do things. But it gets the point across. And so on.
Last night I had one of the more worthwhile and exciting conversations that I have had in a very long time. As you may have guessed from the photo displayed above, much of the conversation revolved around the problems of poverty, homelessness, drug use and abuse, and other problems facing the society we all live in. The excitement did not stem from the topics themselves – we all understand the immensity of these problems, we all recognize them as problems, we all want to solve them.
But do we?
The excitement came from the identification of solutions. Not systematic solutions. These may not exist, and any that do exist will certainly be flawed and extremely difficult to implement. No, the solutions are person to person solutions. In order to create change in areas of society that desperately need it, those areas need to be shown love. Love is without a doubt the most powerful emotion that exists. People fight and die for it, live their entire lives searching for it, and are miserable without it. There is no question that the greatest experience I have ever known is to love someone and know that I am loved in return.
The problem lies in the fact that many people living in our society do not know what it is like to be loved. Depending on whom you ask, the divorce rate in this country ranges from 50% to well above that number. According to enrichment journal on the divorce rate in America, "the divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%, the divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%, the divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%" . This is a problem. The number of children born to single parents is growing every day. Children growing up without a parent – especially sons lacking fathers and daughters lacking mothers – are neglected, ignored and lack the support that children raised by two parents experience. This is a problem. Certainly there is no way to eliminate divorce; I would not begin to suggest that it is possible to eliminate single parenthood. Both of these issues are realities in the world in which we live.
The solution is not handing out birth control, or putting married couples through counseling. These solutions can curb the problem, but may not have the desired, lasting impact for a number of reasons, perhaps cultural, economic, ethnic or other reasons. The solution, then, is to insert ourselves into these communities. The solution is to love.
If a child is being raised by a single mother who is never around because the mother is working two jobs full time in order to provide food and shelter for her child, the child is more likely than not missing out on being shown love, being cared for, being told that they matter. This isn’t an indictment of the mother; rather, it is a reality of the situation. As an individual who was raised by two parents who love me and love each other, I recognize how lucky I was and how lucky I am. I have no complaints about my life thus far. I understand that this is a rarity, and certainly I would not want to flaunt my good fortune in front of those who have been less fortunate than I have.
Yet, is it not our duty to love the people around us? Is it not our duty to seek out the broken and the hurting and to show them that they matter? This brings me to the picture posted up above.
I don't know that man, I have never walked past him nor laid eyes on him. I believe that he lives in Toronto, Canada. But I met someone similar. During the four months I lived in London, every day I had a thirty minute walk from our flats to the class building. On that walk, most days I would pass through Trafalgar Square, one of the busiest places in the center of London. And every day, the same homeless man sat in the same spot, quietly, meekly. He never bothered anyone. Never caused a fuss. But he was always there, like clockwork. Begging is illegal in London, and the city tries to prevent homeless people from laying around in public places; I never saw the police even say a word to this man. He minded his business, and people minded theirs. He was alone, in every way.
One of my roommates and I decided one day to try an experiment at the expense of the British people. Brits are notoriously stoic, never showing emotion and rarely smiling. We decided it would be fun to smile, wave and say hello to everyone we passed by on our walk to class that morning. If I had to judge, roughly one out of every ten people we greeted on that walk responsed. And most of them did it with a subtle head not or a mumbled "good morning". More or less what we expected. However, as we walked through Trafalgar Square, I decided to say hello to the homeless man who was always there. As I walked past him, I glanced in his direction, made eye contact with him, smiled and said "good morning!" His response was not exactly what I expected. Instead of the quiet, meek man who I was used to seeing, I witnessed eyes light up like I hadn't seen in ages. I saw a man come alive for an instant. He perked up, smiled back and returned my good morning with one of his own.
The single person who I was able to connect with that morning was a homeless man.
I had forgotten about that story until last night, during the conversation I touched on earlier. I realized that this man most likely lacked human interaction almost completely. No one showed him love or attention. No one showed him that he mattered. If I could do it all over again, I wish that I had woken up thirty minutes earlier each day so that I could spend some time sitting with him and forging a relationship with him. Showing him that he mattered, and that I cared about him. I wish I had that opportunity again. Just to see his eyes light up again would be worth the trip.