I read a very sad story in the local newspaper this morning–a homeless man sleeping in a public laundromat beaten then later found dead. In the story there is no mention made of who he was, what he might have done, whether he had family, why he was so poor. Unfortunately in this country and around the world there are millions of homeless people, many of them having families and once jobs. In this country Congress fails to extend unemployment funds and slashes food stamps. Meanwhile, the very rich get richer, the poor more poor, and the middle income folks slip into poverty.
This is a national disgrace in what is the richest country in the world. We waste millions on running political campaigns, defense department cost overruns, and subsidies to farmers not to grow and corporations who don’t pay taxes because as the saying goes, “corporations are people, too.”
Some years ago I wrote a magazine article which described my reaction to a news story with the headline that another homeless man had died needlessly. The article was about his funeral and the homily was given by a priest lamenting the fact that this man had died such a tragic death. What stood out in the story and literally made my breath stop was that the homeless man had my name, “John Morgan.”
I thought that homeless man could have been me. One stroke or heart attack, one loss of job or other economic support could put me where he was. And that’s the real point of what often seems missing in our culture. We seem unable to put ourselves in the place of others, especially those who are homeless or very poor. They are “the other people,” not us. But the point of every great spiritual teacher I have read is that of having compassion for others, especially those who are suffering. The Golden Rule is a common one among all great wisdom teachings. Without that feeling of connections to others, especially those most hurting, we fail miserably to live up to the teachings of many cultures and times and religions.
The link to the local newspaper story is below: