Life is a series of choices


Life is a series of choices

I see where the city of Los Angeles is moving some of the homeless, probably away from view. I’m not sure what good it will do. As I was eating my breakfast I was looking out the restaurant window at a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk. I felt empathy for him (her?). How did they get there? Who caused their plight?

I have always believed that everything affecting me is my fault. If I get hit by a bus, my fault. Fired? My fault. Attacked by an incurable disease, my fault. I find that if I take that position, my life is much more simple. And, in most of the cases (bus and disease aside), I can affect the outcome. Even in the case of the bus, I can choose to look both ways.

Let’s consider the homeless person. I have no doubt that throughout his or her life she made a series of choices that led to that bed on the sidewalk. Granted that some of them were difficult. Some of them maybe he didn’t even know he could make. I know that many family situations are extremely difficult. Children are abused and it affects their lives forever. But there are always choices. Difficult ones, to be sure.

What if she chose to stay in school and graduate, rather than run away from home? Or conversely, what if he ran away from an abusive home rather than stay and finish school. Both are potentially the right choice. What if she chose to stay in bed a little longer and was habitually late for work, thus getting on the wrong side of the boss. Did that choice cost the job that paid for the apartment?

You know that things aren’t quite right on the shop floor. Raw material is late. Orders are slow in coming. Maybe its time for a change. Should you choose to look for a new job, or see it through. There are no jobs in Cleveland, do you hunker down, or move to job filled Georgia or Alabama. Choices.

But I can’t just pick up and move. Another choice, and perhaps a beginning on a downward spiral to homelessness.

I understand that sometimes the ‘right’ choice may not be immediately available. “When you are up to you rear in alligators, it’s hard to remember your initial goal was to drain the swamp.”

I wonder if sometimes we don’t need a ‘nudge’ toward making a choice. I choose not to rob a bank because I don’t want to go to Jail. I choose to be on time because I want to keep this job. I choose not to have a child out of wedlock because raising a child alone is extremely difficult. I choose to figure out a way to not be homeless, because if I sleep on the street, some big guy in a truck is going to come by, pick up my stuff and move me to a homeless shelter, or to another town, or to jail.

Homeless advocates talk about freedom to choose. These folks chose homelessness and by golly, they should be allowed to be homeless. Fair Enough. The problem is when that homelessness impinges on my freedom to walk down the street, look in a store window, have my kids feel safe, live in a city without piles of trash on every street corner. See, I’m cool with most everything, until your choices affect my ability to choose.

Gandhi said “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Of course he was right. Its easy to say “Homelessness has been around for thousands of years, there is nothing we can do.”  However, we can chose to do something. I have an idea. Let me put it forth in the next blog.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. I have read in some articles about mental illness, that 75% +/- of street folks are ill with no support system, no meds, family etc. We need more facilities for treatment, not jail and/or relocation.

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