The Unexpected (?) Kindness of People Experiencing Homelessness

Did you see the video where the kid is laying on the sidewalk and the only person to stop and offer warmth and comfort was a man that is homeless?

Did you read the news story where a woman that is homeless found a wallet – and returned it without taking any of the money or using the credit cards first?

Did you hear about the youth that is homeless that sang the song to the kid that was crying at the parade?

I like a feel-good, good-news story as much as the next person. What I cannot fathom is why the homelessness status of the individual is such a riveting point in the news story. It is as if people experiencing homelessness are incapable of being kind.

If you want to understand kindness, maybe you need to understand empathy first. I can share the feelings of another if I have felt those feelings myself. If homeless, it is natural empathy to provide warmth and comfort of another. It is natural empathy to return precious belongings of another if I, myself, have experienced things taken from me. It is natural empathy to help others find joy during periods of discomfort or frustration – as I long to feel the same.

People experiencing homelessness are – believe it or not news media outlets and sensational FaceBook status updaters – capable of the same range of emotions and housed people. You do not lose your capacity to have emotions when you experience homelessness. To think otherwise is to, perhaps implicitly, reinforce that if you are homeless you are an “other”…not someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, son, or daughter.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.


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