|Inside my box.|
I slept in a box this weekend. Along with several other people, I participated in a homeless simulation, and I got the message.
I have seen bums sleeping on the streets in Edmonton, Montreal, Paris, Rome. Sometimes I would put a coin or two in their cups and move on. Before my experience, I hadn't thought about what it means to label someone a "bum." Sleeping on asphalt outside overnight has me thinking carefully about that word and its intent. When I call someone a bum, am I saying...You are a piece of crap? You are connected to a bodily function that I'd rather not dwell on? Hence I can ignore you?
My 12-hour homeless experience was the tip of the tip of the poverty iceberg, yet the event clearly said gratitude. Usually blind to my privileges, I saw them everywhere at home today: blankets, pillows, lip balm, toothpaste, mosquito spray, deodorant, sunglasses, socks, shampoo, food. So much comfort. Doesn't everyone deserve this comfort? Yet the poor are blamed, dismissed, disrespected, ignored.
How does that lack of compassion impact a person's daily mental health?
Science teaches that pain is subjective. Our brains use pain as a signal for action; the actual pain is not an accurate indicator of how much damage has occurred to our bodies (or minds). Thus pain responses are individual in nature. This is both fascinating to me, and, considering the homeless, tragic. Yet it explains a lot, because if my pain is not your pain, it takes effort to truly understand your pain. Thus the homeless, and what they're experiencing--so abstract to me--becomes invisible to me as it does for so many of us.
I survived one night sleeping outside in a box, but if I had to do it again tonight and tomorrow and tomorrow and almost everyone ignored me everyday...who would my pain make of me? A thief? A drug addict? Dead? It's not so abstract anymore.