When I saw the video below I was touched to the point of tears, because it resonated deeply with me. In a world of first impressions we far too often fail to take that second glance and look deeper. We see only the surface, making snap judgments and quick assessments that are often quite utterly wrong.Whether we know it or not most of us have at some point in our lives experienced one of the risk factors of homelessness:
· Unexpected job loss
· Physical illness or injury
· Mental illness, including depression
· Marital breakdown
· Abusive domestic relationships
· Substance abuse or addiction, including alcoholism
· Unanticipated financial hardships and challenges
Look carefully at that list. See yourself or someone you love on it? Me too. In fact I would argue that almost everyone has at some point encountered one or more of the life challenges on that list, meaning that we have all, whether we realized it or not, experienced one of the risk factors of homelessness. Perhaps we were fortunate enough to have the financial resources to deal with the challenges, or perhaps we had family or friends who helped us through. Perhaps we were some of the lucky ones who found a job again quickly or who had good health insurance. But not everyone does.
Once upon a time I looked at homeless people and saw only the surface. An experience over two decades ago in Toronto, where I encountered many homeless individuals on a daily basis, taught me to look beyond the first impression – to take a second glance. I began to see the story behind the person, and to see homelessness as a condition of existence and not the defining quality of a person.
I began to see the person and not the label.
Watch the video. Take a second glance, and see behind the exterior. Remember that each person faces challenges which we may know nothing about, and every person has a story. Don’t see the label. See the person that the second glance reveals, and realize that the distance between you and them is far, far smaller than you ever imagined.
This video was made in support of the Centre of Hope, Fort McMurray's daytime drop-in shelter for the homeless and at-risk-of-homeless in our community. Please visit their website to see how they serve our community - and how your second glance can help them to ensure the most vulnerable in our community have the assistance they need. My gratitude to them for the work they do every day, and to Doug Roxburgh for the inspiring video.