The Métropolitain

Insights from homelessness: There is much to learn from those who live far from the madding crowd

By Father John Walsh on October 19, 2012


The majority of people in Montreal, and elsewhere, pass a homeless person on the street and they are unable to go beyond what their eyes see.  The very presence of a homeless person on the same street where people have their daily route to work disturbs some people; others, walk on as if they do not exist.   

The homeless are no different from you and me.  No different.  They laugh, they cry, they feel pain and they are struggling to make sense of their lives.  Each of us hasn’t a story to tell, we have a history to recount.  It begins with birth and ends with death.  History unfolds in one’s upbringing, one’s childhood, youth, adolescence and adulthood.  The road less travelled is that of the homeless people.  

homeless.jpgThere is much to learn from these people who are outside the norms of what many refer to as “normal.” Their persistence in the face of insurmountable odds would cause the “average” and “normal” person to give up and withdraw from society.  Suicide would not be outside the realm of possibility for anyone who would have to walk in their shoes. The real lessons they can teach society are many.   

They have little concern for material wealth.  They are content with the clothes on their backs, a few cents for the odd Tim Horton’s coffee, maybe a visit now and then to MacDonald’s;  our consumer society has not swallowed them up.  Our culture places so much emphasis on what we have amassed in terms of things; the homeless demand little of life and are happy when people simply greet them with a smile and say ‘hello.”  

They tell you who they are, not what they have.  Today’s world is a competitive world where people are always trying to outdo the other; the homeless have abandoned competition, they live without judging others.    

Our culture drives people to plan for the future and to see success down the line; the homeless live in the present, one day at a time.  Above all, the homeless teach society that it must take responsibility for those who live apart from the madding crowd, those who have not given in to the insane stress of success, those who live a simple life not one complicated with passing thrills, and that responsibility is not to only care for the homeless but to listen to the homeless and become homeless.  

Society will have learned the lessons of the homeless when people choose to be “homeless” and realize that they are but pilgrims passing though this life and that they need not spend all their time worrying about tomorrow.  The “homeless” have learned from within the trials and tribulations of life itself all that life all life can teach us.  Anyone who takes only a half-hour to sit and speak with a homeless person will soon find they can be “at home” with their own lives if they learn the insights from homelessness.