Let’s never let go of our empathy – it’s what powers our shared journey
I HAD A DIFFERENT TOPIC picked for this column, but then I came across a heated discussion on social media over the recent call for bottled water put out by the Mustard Seed.
Kamloops is facing a heat wave that has been forecasted to last for at least another week but likely for a few weeks yet and that is a big problem for anyone who does not have free and unrestricted access to drinking water, such as the homeless population.
Some thought that providing bottled water to the homeless population would be akin to a privilege. After all, what is wrong with tap water and refillable bottles. Well, nothing at all, we have good drinking water here in Kamloops and we’re hopefully going to see water fountains popping up soon too.
Meanwhile, there is a 40+ forecast for a few days next week in Kamloops and that means homeless people will need to be provided with means to survive it. Yes, the word is survival because heat can be deadly.
We’ve been seeing lots of topics regarding the homeless population. It’s a charged issue. There are those who donate time, money, food or whatever else is needed to help people who find themselves in dire straits. Then, there are those who think helping is enabling and homelessness means criminality with little benefit to the community at large.
But we should also remember that generalizing often leads to judgment and past that there’s not much empathy left. Our shared humanity obliges us to see past judgment: every person has a story.
I know, it’s that cliché that we hear often. But as soon as one gets reminded of this simple truth and of the proverbial shoes the other person is wearing, the picture gets less blurry.
I have friends whose family members became homeless, and I have friends who have themselves been homeless. I’ve read countless accounts of people who struggled with mental health issues, addiction and became homeless, and then managed to find a way out.
I also know the feeling of coming home to find that we were robbed, and I resented that as much as any human would. The sense of violation was real and so was the loss of priceless items that were stolen from us, including family photos.
But I was still in a position of privilege. Stories of desperation abound, and the easiest thing is to impart judgment, but that leaves us all poorer. It’s a sure way to get lost from what’s important.
Ultimately, what’s important to ourselves as humans is the compassion we show each other when most needed, through gestures, kind words and by withholding judgment.
Our community has a heart, we’ve seen that many times. Debates over why giving out refillable bottles is better than bottled water will not address people’s thirst.
Indeed, plastic pollution is as real as can be, and it’s a bigger problem than we know given how little of the discarded plastic is being recycled in Canada. However, this is not the time to fix that.
The time to think of better long-term solutions, sustainable from a community perspective and environmentally, is just about any day when problems surface, but when needs are urgent, we ought to set aside the debates and the quest for best way to do it, and instead go for best way to help.
I will leave you with a thought-provoking quote by Marshall Rosenberg, author of Principles of Non-violent Communication, “Instead of playing the game ‘Making Life Wonderful’ we often play the game ‘Who’s right?’. Do you know that game? It’s a game where everybody loses.”
Please do it if you can.
To donate to The Mustard Seed – See needed items here https://theseed.ca/summerwishlists
To donate to The Loop – See the Facebook page here and drop off donations of bottled water and other needed items at 405a Tranquille Road (Tranquille and Mackenzie).