It’s been proven time and again that we feel more compassion toward an individual than we do toward a group of people. But, now we’re looking at a slightly different dynamic. Why are we feeling more compassionate toward a homeless man who plays the piano brilliantly than we are toward a 90-year-old man who has been arrested three times for feeding the homeless?
In both cases, the plight of the homeless is the center of the controversy. Yes, this particular homeless pianist has gone through hell and back but he is still homeless, although that’s about to change with the gofundme campaign in this man’s name with a monetary goal of $50,000 to buy him a home, a car, and tuition for the three classes he needs to complete his music theory degree.
I feel deeply compassionate for this man but not more so than I feel for the hundreds of hungry, homeless people who gather on a Fort Lauderdale beach every Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. to be fed by a 90-year-old man, who does not solicit donations from anyone, and whose only crime is trying to eliminate hunger in his community.
It’s strange to see people rush to the aid of people who have been hit by a natural disaster, or those whose homes have burned down, or children who are sick and dying and would like one last thing before they die, and then see these same people making it a crime to feed the homeless or even to be homeless.
Some cities have gone so far as making it a crime for homeless people to sleep in their car or in the streets. One city even makes it a crime to smell bad on city property. And, yeah, homeless people might smell bad if they don’t have access to showers and washing machines and the clothing on their back is the only clothing they own.
In many cities, it’s illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks, to dig through trash cans, to feed the homeless without written permission, to sleep in public, to ask for help, not just for money, and some cities even have a hotline to report homeless people who ask for money on city property.
Where are these do-gooders who make speeches about eliminating poverty but then make it a crime to be impoverished? Where are the politicians who make impassioned speeches about helping the needy and then enact laws to penalize these same people for being needy?
This is definitely a world gone mad when we can punish our neighbors for sleeping in their cars because they don’t have a home, but we can rush to the aid of people in other countries who are in the same circumstances.