Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Big Picture

I saw this photo on The Big Picture yesterday, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Since I wrote about what I had thought makes us human, I've been thinking about things that all humans are and do; all of us. They were things like eating, and sleeping; just simple things that everyone does, that tie us together. This photo made me want to cry; this man, sitting outside a hospital in Guatemala City.

The album is called Homelessness Around The World. I'm not sure why, but homelessness has always been an issue that really hits me. Living in the city, with homeless neighbours, is confronting, and I think really important for someone like me who lives a pretty charmed life. I can't remember when it started - maybe when I heard about a culture (I forget which) who believe that there are spirits who wait for babies to be born, and then they enter their bodies and become them - but for a long time I've felt like me being me and you being you is just chance, and we could just as easily have been someone else. I sometimes feel so far removed from other people (I like to call them capitalist assholes), but really, I do believe that, in spite of our differences, we're all the same. Which is why it breaks my heart when I see people on the street - these are people, with the same needs as anybody, and yet they're so often treated as if they're not people. They're treated as if they're invisible, or at fault, or simply unimportant. I wish everyone could see these photos, and keep looking at them until they really see these people.

This was taken on Fifth Avenue in New York, during the Black Friday sales. It made me feel sick. I tried to think that maybe some of these people had stopped to give her some money when they went past before, but I don't believe it. It makes me think of all the times people have said You Can't Save Them All to me. If all of us helped one person, then no-one would need to try to save everyone. Besides which, it's not about saving anyone; Jesus has been and gone, yo. I wish to Nietzsche that someone smiled at this lady on this day.

This is Beverly. She is 63, and has been homeless since her husband died in August. I am 28, and if anything happened to Vincent, I would want to die. If I lost him and had nowhere to live, I don't know what I would do.

I really love this man's face. He's waiting for food, in Las Vegas, a place where rich people go and throw away millions and millions and millions, all the time. When I worked at World Vision, people would often ask why Child Sponsorship was called so when the money went to a collective fund for the entire community. It was because people need a face or they can't make a connection. Having contact with one child, receiving photos and school and health reports, gives a sponsor something tangible, in a way they can follow development. Reading about homelessness is one thing, but really looking at someone's face, like this man's, with his humour and wryness and everything else, is another thing entirely. It becomes personal. You don't just see someone who needs your change. You see someone.

I remember a bit in Gillian Anderson's Little Women when Meg says something about child slavery, and Belle says "the poor are always with us". Yes, they fucking are, and as long as they are, we had better not forget it, or we're not worth shit.

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