The Unexpected (?) Kindness of People Experiencing Homelessness

Did you see the video where the kid is laying on the sidewalk and the only person to stop and offer warmth and comfort was a man that is homeless?

Did you read the news story where a woman that is homeless found a wallet – and returned it without taking any of the money or using the credit cards first?

Did you hear about the youth that is homeless that sang the song to the kid that was crying at the parade?

I like a feel-good, good-news story as much as the next person. What I cannot fathom is why the homelessness status of the individual is such a riveting point in the news story. It is as if people experiencing homelessness are incapable of being kind.

If you want to understand kindness, maybe you need to understand empathy first. I can share the feelings of another if I have felt those feelings myself. If homeless, it is natural empathy to provide warmth and comfort of another. It is natural empathy to return precious belongings of another if I, myself, have experienced things taken from me. It is natural empathy to help others find joy during periods of discomfort or frustration – as I long to feel the same.

People experiencing homelessness are – believe it or not news media outlets and sensational FaceBook status updaters – capable of the same range of emotions and housed people. You do not lose your capacity to have emotions when you experience homelessness. To think otherwise is to, perhaps implicitly, reinforce that if you are homeless you are an “other”…not someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, son, or daughter.

About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.


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