Maybe someday I will tell you the story of how I came to allow a homeless couple to live in my living room for a week. It has a certain entertainment value all its own. However, this post is about what I learned from this experience about the difference between what we like to believe about ourselves versus the truth.
( For those Christians worried I’m ruining my blessings about writing about this, I assure you. I wasn’t going to be getting any anyways. I think I got an F on this test. )
What I learned About Myself From Letting Homeless People Stay At My House For A Week
- I am not as compassionate as I thought I was. In fact, I am the worst kind of hypocrite because I was fooling myself.
- The minute I had installed them on the couches, I withdrew to my room and avoided them as much as possible.
- I avoided eye contact, and mostly refused to be drawn into conversations.
- I didn’t check to see they were comfortable, silently assuming they should be thankful with a roof over their head, running water, and television. I truly suck.
- I had a countdown going on in my head until the time they would be leaving. When they decided to leave a few days early, I could barely contain my joy.
- It is infinitely easier to give them money than to give them anything else. I don’t value money all that much, so giving it away in small denominations isn’t hard. I do value my time and my attention, and I gave those things very little, and grudgingly.
- Despite my protests otherwise, I had stereotyped them pretty much like most people do.
- I kept watching for signs of mental illness that would be dangerous to us, or an addiction to drugs that would explain their homelessness.
- I was kind of appalled when I realized one of them was simply lazy and it didn’t bother her in the least to accept charity instead of working.
- I realized pretty quickly the other one had manipulation down to a science, and was constantly working an angle with the kids or me.
- I was surprised about the fights they would have with each other about jealousy, what to watch on tv, and other non-homeless specific subjects. Just how narrow-minded am I?!
- I worried way more about my worldly possessions than I’m comfortable with.
- Every time something went missing like a pack of cigarettes or a DVD, I instantly suspected they had stolen them, even though each time they were found, they had been misplaced by us, not the homeless guests.
- Each day, the site of my television still in its place would bring me joy.
- I was constantly annoyed by how the lazy one ate all the food all day, and then when Rebekkah, who has food anxiety issues would get upset, the one who works would give us a little cash for more. How do you hide food from a homeless person and still like yourself?
- I stupidly gave myself way more credit for all those $1 and $5 bills I’ve handed out over the years.
- What the hell was I so pumped up about? Seriously, I have never given enough money to someone on a corner to buy them anything more expensive than a coke and some chips.
- While this may possibly go down in the history of me as one of the most charitable things I’ve ever done, it is unlikely it affected the homeless couple all that much. They were polite, said how much they appreciated us allowing them to stay with us, and then chattered excitedly about the new life they were embarking on.
- Sometimes, people are homeless because of their choices, not just mental illness or addictions.
- I learned that while a lot of people end up on the streets for the big reasons – mental illness, addiction, and other coping problems – there is a fair number of them who just don’t want to work for things. I’m surprised at how surprised I am at this.
- I learned a little bit more about a whole sub-culture of life that homeless people belong to. They have a hierarchy within their ranks, and they have their own sort of schedule to follow if they want to eat, get clothes, and have a warm place to sleep.
I am glad for this experience, and the kids and I had a nice reality check about just who we really are. Nothing like living with homeless people in your living room to know just how much of a snob you really are. My perspective, yet again, has shifted to a more honest viewpoint, which includes a hiatus on this extreme kind of charitable act for the foreseeable future.