Every day for the month of June and July I have taken the MARTA train into downtown Atlanta to attend Georgia State University’s education program. Each day I visit this part of Atlanta, I am struck by the sheer amount of suffering and homelessness that exists on the streets of Atlanta. I do not entirely understand why downtown seems to be a meeting place for the poor and disenfranchised, but I know one thing and that is that many people here are tired, worn out, and dirt poor. The sheer magnitude of suffering in our own cities in the richest country in the world is a symptom of a psychological ailment, greed. The society that is needed for America is a culture of giving and sharing. If your neighbor asks of you to give him your cloak, you should give him your tunic too. The Atlanta culture is one of massive isolation and distance between people. People travel huge distances to work, to church, and to the grocery store in steel and glass enclosures that isolate and “protect” people from other humans. What is to be afraid of when you see a poor person? Is is the desperate state that these people are in? Is it the smell of urine or feces? What is it that prevents people from giving freely of themselves to others? I think the situation is complex. People are afraid of giving because they think it is a waste. Why waste capital on someone who you think is disposable and therefore not worthy of economic care?
The culture of Atlanta is in need of idealistic people who are willing to give up comfort, a big home, a cushy paycheck, and the security of isolation. To isolate from the suffering is to be safe. It is to live unchallenged and afraid. There is no reward for giving freely but the satisfaction that you have done something nice for someone else. Whether you give because you think God tells you to do it or you give because you care for your fellow human being with no desire for reward in some promised afterlife, the human gift is divine. I do not care what you call it, gift is the only water in the desert of suffering that exists on earth that can heal someone’s body and mind to live a life of true serenity and peace. To get a job you need to eat and drink and live in a safe space. People that think that it is possible for the homeless and disenfranchised to “just get a job” have never been truly subjected to the cold, harsh reality of being in such as situation yourself. That, or hearts freeze on the street.
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