What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see a serviceman or woman in uniform? Do you feel gratitude for the job they do? Are you proud? Do you feel safe? How do you react? Do you smile and say ‘thank you’? Perhaps you offer a kind word or a handshake? Maybe you’re the owner or manager of a café or restaurant where you offer free meals for service personnel? Perhaps you’ve bought a meal for one of our heroes: These are all wonderful gestures, offered in thanks for those who keep us free from tyranny.
Now, imagine you’re walking down the street – any street in your town or city. You see a homeless person. You notice something about the individual. They’re wearing an armed services cap and maybe a camo jacket or trousers. What thoughts immediately go through your head? Obviously the person found the cap; right? Maybe stole it and the clothes from a thrifty store. Just maybe they were taken from a charity bin. We begin to feel that repulsion at the person who in our minds, is now not just a smelly and un-kept homeless person but a thief.
How is it we always look down on the less fortunate? We see homeless people and make that immediate judgment: The person must be a lowlife. They have no self-respect right? After all, if the person had any dignity, they wouldn’t choose to be living like that.
Take a step back. Have you every stopped to think that the person who is sitting on the sidewalk, looking unwashed and miserable is a human being? Perhaps that person is really a veteran. Have you even considered the challenges the person might have faced? Surely their experiences have had an extraordinary impact on their lives, to such an extent they now find themselves in this a soul-destroying position? This once proud individual, who stood in a service uniform, is reduced to a meaningless, hand to mouth existence on the streets.
Veterans are people who make the choice to be the sentinels at the gate to freedom. They stand as the first and last bastions between the free world and those who seek to subjugate us.
Homeless people are not nameless: They are not faceless. They are real thinking and feeling people, just like you and me.
Homeless veterans deserve our compassion, support and gratitude. They are not second class citizens, but heroes who are deserving of so much more.
Next time you see a homeless person wearing a service cap and camos, don’t be quick to judgment: That person might be a veteran, who seems in that moment to be down on his/her luck. Do yourself a favour; stop, smile, shake hands and say ‘thank you’. If you are able to spare a few dollars, buy the individual a meal.
I have said this before: Homelessness is not a disease. You can’t catch it through kindness. It doesn’t jump from one person to another. In fact, when you act with compassion you have in your hands the capacity to change lives for the better.
Next time you see a homeless person have respect and don’t stand in judgment. If you’ve not walked in that persons shoes, you can never hope to understand their pain and anguish.
Before you pass judgment, remember this: Our veterans have suffered; they were tormented; they were tortured and many died—to preserve our freedom. Their sacrifices are more admirable because they are selfless. They follow orders. They have no power; no control and no influence over whether or not they go to war.