or, how “Ender’s Game” explains all.
In a recent conversation, a friend asked several interesting questions about what it would take to solve the problem of homelessness in the USA. Her questions challenged my own personal beliefs and values, and how they might differ from beliefs held by the general population.
Do I really think homelessness can be solved? Yes! I confidently replied…and the Hammer of Doubt immediately bludgeoned me into depression. Because the next question was, of course, how do we solve it?
“Compassion” was my initial solution. But what about all those folks who just don’t feel compassion for the homeless?
“Grassroots media” popped out next. But isn’t that preaching to the choir? And after all, not everyone has access to the internetz.
I had to dig deeper.
My friend shared a story about her neighborhood association’s outrage at homeless people in their area, comparing them to an infestation of rats. Wow. Way to dehumanize the homeless.
Unless we are directly affected, until we have a brother, daughter, ex-husband, or family friend who is homeless, we tend to think of the homeless (and all fringe-dwellers) as “other,” and “dangerous.” It’s pretty much impossible to expect these folks to find compassion. There is no relationship–why should they feel compassion?
Which brings us to “Ender’s Game.”
Later that day, I treated myself to a first-run movie (it’s usually Netflix or HuluPlus on my limited budget). Based on a SciFi novel by Orson Scott Card, “Ender’s Game” is about ending an alien threat to Earth by training and manipulating pre-teens to excel in (supposedly) simulated war games. In a future world with a limit of two children per family, the main protagonist is a “third”—allowable only under extreme conditions. The older son failed the program because he was too violent. The middle daughter flunked because she was too compassionate. The project director hoped to find in Ender the perfect balance between compassion and violence. I won’t spoil it for others—read the book &/or see the movie—highly recommended.
How can a human possibly reconcile these two extremes? I have such an aversion to violence that I lose objectivity if I even try to think about it. What if I substituted “extreme doing” for “violence?” Changing my perspective a bit helped me reframe my personal bias.
I recalled an incident years ago when a friend knocked on my door asking me to sign a petition on some political issue. When I declined, he aggressively berated me for “not taking action.” His cause was good, but his insistence turned me off.
Now I could better understand the relationship between the two—having compassion for the homeless is great; advocating for the homeless is admirable, but we do ourselves no favor if we attempt to aggressively force someone to show compassion.
The third response is the charm.
So my third answer to solving homelessness has to do with building relatedness, not just relationships. Yes, compassion, yes, grassroots social media and networking. But also, pooling efforts. Putting a face and name to the homeless. Telling people’s stories about how and why they became homeless. Posting information and statistics to promote awareness about homelessness. Examining the related issues that contribute to homelessness.
Showing and modeling how we are all related gets us much further down the road to solving this and other social problems that contribute to homelessness. Mac Mission Incorporated and Macpack came about because our director, Eryn Snowden-Rawley, saw how her father reached out to people going through difficult times.
So let’s get creative. How can we turn our collective energies and talents to bring some relief to those in need? Let us know what YOU think will help solve homelessness.