August 27, 2010

Invisible People

Friday morning, sunshine fills my room- got a cup of coffee in one hand and my hat is cocked across my head at a jaunty angle. Stevie Wonder's I Was Made To Love Her is on iTunes and I am wide awake. Here in my home office I am about to tell you a tale of wonder and magic called Invisible People.

Invisibility is something that a lot of people dream about. On a list of prospective superpowers it is probably just a few notches below the ability to fly or super strength. It would be cool to be invisible or so a lot of people think. It certainly catches my eye, I could do a lot with it.

But the funny thing about invisibility is that it already exists or should I say that there are lots of people who have mastered invisibility. You probably have passed a bunch and not even realized it. The thing is that you probably don't recognize them as being invisible in the superpower sense because they aren't.

We have lots of different names for them some nice and some not so nice. In this post we'll just call them homeless. They are all over the place. Some of them live in the bushes off on the side of the road or under a freeway overpass. Others live in their cars or roam from one cheap motel to another.

The ones that don't have real shelter and spend their days exposed to the weather do the best job of staying invisible. Most of us don't want to look at them. Some times it is because we blame them for their situation. We think that they most of squandered opportunities to earn a living and live in an apartment or house. We think that they drank or smoked their life away and because they can't control themselves they ended up on the street. We might even feel badly about it. We might even want to help but fear to because we don't want to contribute to their habit.

Whatever the reason is it doesn't matter because they are invisible to us. As a father I look at my children and think about their futures. It is horrifying to think that one day my kids could be that man or woman at the side of the road. I would feel like I had failed them.

But I can't worry about that now. It is too far down the road. Now I have to be concerned with teaching them many things, not the least of which is to remember that the invisible people are humans and that we have an obligation to try to help. We have a social responsibility to try to find a way to help those who have fallen down.

I can teach the kids all of the reasons why Judaism obligates us to help. I can cite chapter and verse but that is too easy and too simple. I don't want them to view this under the "G-d wants us to do this" mantle. I don't want that because it is too easy to externalize the reasons why. I want them to internalize it.

I want them to do it because it is the right thing to do. I want them to do it because when we help others we make the world a better place. I want them to do it because of the lessons it teaches and because of the rewards it offers.

I want them to do it because it helps to reinforce the humanity of people. I am not a pacifist. I believe that sometimes force is necessary and that when it is you unleash hell upon those you go to war with. But that doesn't mean that I don't remember that somewhere a mother cries over the bodies of her children.

It is a terrible contradiction but we live in a world full of contradictions. And one of those is that in a country that offers incredible opportunities there are millions of invisible people fighting to be seen. So here is my reminder to myself and whomever else is interested that it is time to help the invisible rejoin the rest of us in the sunlight.

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