“The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on your gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligence; and it makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool.”
The above statement credited to noted writer and journalist, William Bolitho, is one of the boldest and most incisive statements I have ever come across.
In asking people to flip the chart on their circumstances; to go outside the usual and be positively disruptive, William set the right tone for the enduring optimists of our time.
Ralph Waldo Emerson put it differently thus: “Difficulties exist to be surmounted.”
And that’s what an increasing number of homeless persons – and not just the homeless service providers – are demonstrating across this country.
It is safe to say homelessness is nothing gainful. It is rather something that undermines the dignity, morale, safety and wellbeing of people – young and old.
Imagine underage children sleeping under the viaduct with their single mother in sub-zero weather. Nothing to grin about.
In December 2015, Detroiters woke up to learn in the Detroit News that a couple has been living in their car with their sick kids whom they eventually handed over to the state. (We swung into action; giving them a furnished home in Detroit, and helping them regain custody of their kids before Christmas).
To them, homelessness wasn’t fun. It was pure agony. Despite having income, they couldn’t afford rent and other things that signify good living. Of course, they were not alone. We had (and still have) around us men and women working really hard but remaining pitiably poor – and sometimes finding themselves in homelessness.
How else could such homeless people “profit from their losses” if not by finding help in frontline nonprofits like Detroit Rescue Mission?
They get help – as expected. They are help receivers – as widely believed.
But the New York Post reported recently that instead of being the one who was being helped, a homeless man chose to be the one who was helping a woman in need. Identified as Bobbitt, the homeless man “used the last $20 in his pocket to buy gas for a stranded motorist because he feared for her safety.”
Many reading this piece won’t expect such remarkable generosity from a homeless man simply because the dominant narrative is that homeless people are bad and dangerous.
In any given day, over 15, 000 persons are homeless in Detroit. Imagine how unlivable the city would be if those 15, 000 homeless persons are bad and dangerous. Few people will walk the streets. Businesses will suffer because many would be scared to come near. Kids would have to go to school with police escorts. The list goes on.
Thank God that’s not the case. Most homeless women, children and men are good people who are simply victims of bad choices and circumstances. And when given the right help they need, they bounce back, gain stability and self-reliance and contribute their quota to the growth of the community.
There are many ex-homeless persons gainfully employed, living in their own apartments, supporting their families, paying taxes and patronizing local businesses.
And that’s because kind-hearted individuals, families and organizations found it needful to support them – by serving as volunteers, partners and donors to nonprofits like Detroit Rescue Mission – in overcoming homelessness.
Intriguingly, Bobbitt, the Good Samaritan homeless man I mentioned earlier, now has $328,000 to his name, thanks to the GoFundMe fundraising campaign started by his female beneficiary, Kate.
So, indeed, no good deed goes unrewarded.
Have a merry, charitable Christmas!