I see people treat certain issues, like homelessness, as if they are separate from them. As if they’re in some different world, not directly on the street of their own city.
Christians treat Muslims as if they’re not legitimate members of this existence (when they’re just as entitled to live with their set of beliefs).
I’ve acted as if a friend I know is in emotional turmoil is, somehow, not IN my heart.
And that’s, actually, made the biggest impact on me, examining why we set the distance between ourselves and the uncomfortable things in life. For example, I put physical and emotional distance between me and my friend after seeing some of the horrible things they’ve caused in their life because:
- I didn’t want to seem as if I was endorsing those outcomes & the behaviors that caused them.
- I didn’t want to be associated with a certain image any longer.
- I didn’t want to say something that might make things worse, so I opted for silence and absence.
- I literally couldn’t deal with how much my heart hurt by knowing directly from them, almost verbatim, how effed-up their life has gotten, then seeing them change NOTHING & continue with the same behaviors.
I just… couldn’t.
And I know that many people have the same feelings about our society’s biggest “problems”, so they treat those things as separate from them. Apart from themselves, because they’re trying to maintain a pristine view of the world.
It’s why we haven’t made progress on issues like homelessness, poverty, addiction… sometimes, it’s too painful, too deleterious, too time- or energy-consuming, too WHATEVER to think comprehensively and accept that the downtrodden, the homeless, the mental ill are not apart, but A PART of our society.
There are models that disaster relief and other assistance organizations, like Church Under the Bridge, use. And it – the The Accompaniment Model – works.
But, more than thinking of “those” issues and people as A Part, Not Apart™ of us, we could understand our place as “part of” their world, too.
It’s not easy.
It’s an uncomfortable thought, an uneasy sight, mental irritation.
But, like with most of our social issues, if we changed the way we thought about them, we might actually do something more than fight. If Evangelicals saw the group’s they rail so hard against as their fellow citizens, they might understand the importance of equal rights. If nazidumbshits saw people as fellow humans, standing on this rock suspended in the cosmos just as they are, they might be less inclined to hate them.
It’s all in how we see each other.