Photo by Dave Goudreau via Unsplash
It just seems like it was all a social experiment-like Facebook in real life. Here’s what I mean.
I started out just going to the local park and the neighborhood bars. I didn’t go out anywhere before, usually, just places like the library, grocery store, coffee shop, or work. A doctor’s appointment, things the typical person does. This last year and this year, I thought, well, might as well meet new people. It didn’t make enough sense to meet people at work or volunteering. Here’s what happened.
I met people from a lot of different backgrounds. Maybe none of you will agree, but this is what I learned about people. Everyone is looking for happiness, belonging, love, and security.
This seems pretty common sense. But it is interesting to find out how the “other side” lives.
I was always pretty sheltered. I don’t know what else to call it. I came from a middle-class background. College degreed people with managerial or professional jobs. I don’t know what else you could say about it. I was expected to go to college and become a lawyer, doctor, nurse, engineer or teacher. It wasn’t really anything else for me to think. You lived a life of working, going to school, getting married and having a family. I just didn’t have a big deviation from this lifestyle.
But as I went out to the downtown park, and the bars nearby, I kept having these stories come up.
”I’m homeless.” “I just lost my job,” or “I just got out of prison/rehab.”
This made me question how society works. I mean, most people aren’t real open about that stuff, and for some reason these people are. I guess they have nothing left to lose. I made friends with quite a few of these people. I hear stories everyday about divorce, drug addiction, sexual assault, job loss, or having a hard time getting on track with a new life. Even people at the bars have their own version of hardship: my hours got cut, I got laid off from construction, my wife just left me after 25 years, or I wish my boyfriend didn’t get so drunk like this. Even one couple I met that hadn’t had date night in 3 years from having two toddlers told me a horrible story about being recruited for a company, moving across the country, then being fired in their first month when it was found out they were married and the policy was that relatives couldn’t work together. They had to uproot and look for jobs all over again. So even that was a tale of misery and grief.
It just seems like there is chaos all the time. I know we have politics, and communicable disease, and all the trappings of 2020, but I just keep wondering, “how did it get this bad?” Did I have blinders on or what?
Maybe I had a boring, typical life. I paid my credit cards, rent, and expected bills on time. I don’t really have a criminal record other than speeding tickets. Am I just the most judgmental person ever?
I don’t know if I should credit it with having my own version of OCD with budgeting, or if I just take a lot of calculated risks with many backup plans. I know that can just be obsessive compulsive disorder at its worst, but unfortunately, it’s gotten me ahead. Some people would say it’s just something that organized responsible people do, but I wonder. My friends who have backup plans survive and figure things out. They get knocked down and keep striving and making more ideas and more goals and keep reaching out to more people. They get that next job, a buddy finds them a new apartment, they look for a car to buy online and cut a deal. I don’t think I can call this anything but resiliency. I wanted to study that in graduate school, is resiliency genetic, or learned or both-is it an inherent trait?
I don’t know what to say about this. I don’t think I’m thrilled I met so many felons or criminals, but if you hear so many stories, even some of them find a legal way after the fact to find a decent job or place to live, and decent supporting friends. How is that different than the rest of us? It isn’t.
No, I never thought I was above anybody, but it’s astounding what I’ve learned. It just seems like the stereotypical “other” that you hear about. The outcast, the shunned, the left out. Society is always so good at this.
And I hate being a pushy Christian, but the life of Jesus is almost always for some undesirable group of people that don’t belong. He walks along side them and makes them feel loved and understood.
I guess this is why I say it’s a social experiment. I didn’t think people would accept me from a privileged background. But if you tell them common struggles of insecurity, anxiety, depression, or concern and sadness, they understand. It’s not really that different. Maybe some of them have a different story to tell, but the feelings are the same.
I think that is why I am saying I was sheltered. I used to live in a world where people around me were like, “I’d never make that decision,” or that would never happen to me.” I don’t know how these people survive feeling holier than thou, but I never liked this mindset. Anyone is a crisis away from living in the edge. Even if you don’t do a criminal act, just losing your job, or having a chronic illness hit, or a terrible accident, or a house fire or something to these effects have the average person questioning what to do next.
It’s just time to make sure people are understood and heard. No one wants to feel abandoned. No one wants to feel like a lost cause. I know sometimes people that are unhealthy like to label people as too far gone to help, but it’s up to society to start making changes to lift up people and give encouragement, support, mentoring and training. Be an example. Would people want to be a Christian by how you live your life? Do they think that you are giving, helping, understanding and caring? Or do they think your faith makes you untouchable and stern? Do they think they can come to you with a deep secret or fear? Or will you turn them away?
It’s a cold hard world, but be a person who loves others and hears them out.
Be prepared-it might be a long winter. Literally, or figuratively. You never know.